When I heard the whole sunflower was edible, I definitely had to give it a try! I went to the CG (Community Garden) and harvested roots, stems, flowers, buds, and leaves.
I tried the whole thing. Now, when some people say "edible,” they don't necessarily mean palatable. I do eat and love sunflower seeds, and if it became necessary to eat sunflower plants, it wouldn't be horrible, though it would take some getting used to.
The sunflower root tea was light, nutty, and refreshing. I didn't dry the root or roast it like some recipes called for; I just added hot water to a few fresh roots and let it steep for about an hour.
Most of the leaves of the sunflower are tough and difficult to chew, thus it was suggested to make a pesto out of the larger leaves and use the tender, smaller ones in a salad. Which I did. The leaves are very potent and you don't need a lot to flavor your noodles, or in my case,
Zoodles, which are fresh zucchini spiraled or cut into long strips like spaghetti. The small leaves and flower petals are nice in a salad, and add color and flavor.
My favorite part of this experiment was the stems! They reminded me of the kid's “ants on a log,” which is celery with peanut butter and raisins. The stems are stringy and easy to peel down until you get to the tender center, which tastes sweet and crisp like celery with a hint of sunflower seed. It's time consuming and you don't get a lot out of it, but I could see sitting there getting your fill if you didn't have any other options.
Now, the flower buds are what interested me most. All over the internet they were compared to artichokes. I love artichokes so I was eager to give it a try. I boiled the buds until they softened, let them cool, and then took one of the bigger ones and opened it up like an artichoke. I scraped all the flower bits off and sure enough, there was a creamy center, just like an artichoke. But to my disappointment, it was only an eighth of an inch thick! Maybe if the bud was larger, it would be worth it. I just ate a few of the smaller buds whole and they were actually pretty good.
So from sprouts to seeds, you can't go wrong with the incredible sunflower.