As summer winds along, plants grow taller, flowers burst forth. The smaller flowers become fruiting bodies, but the larger flowers grow larger. The sunflower soars to heights beyond us. We reach like children at their massive flowering head, hoping to pluck a petal or, when the time is right, grab a handful of savoury seeds.
The sunflower plant is largely grown for its tasty seeds, but pretty much every part of the plant can be eaten. The tips of sepals being somewhat inedible. Its points, much like its artichoke cousin, grow sharp. The stems, on the other hand, have an asparagus-like sweetness when cooked, but with an extra savoury element reminiscent of its seeds.
I saw a bunch of sunflowers at the market this evening and wanted to bring some home. My lady thought it was for romantic purposes and, yes, it’s always nice to bring home flowers for someone special, but I qualified the purchase with saying, “These flowers are pretty, but they’re also edible, so don’t be mad if I eat them too.” Knowing that I’m a food dork, she smiled and said, “It’s the gesture of kindness more than the flower itself. At least they won’t just rot and go in the garbage.”
So while trying components of the sunflower, I decided that the sepals and the stem needed to be cooked and the mild, delicate petals were to be left raw.
I also found some beautiful flat beans and beets from the market and decided to incorporate them into a salad today.
Sunflower and Flat Bean Salad with Sweet Beet Sour Cream Dressing
For the Sweet Beet Sour Cream Dressing:
1/4 cup beets, peeled and finely cubed into 1cm(1/2″) pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp fresh dill
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
In a small pan, add the beets and enough water to cover by 1cm (1/2″). Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, depending on how soft of a texture is desired. By this point, most of the liquid will have absorbed and evaporated, so transfer the beets and whatever little liquid remains to a bowl and cool completely. Add the sour cream, maple syrup, dill, salt and pepper and stir to combine completely. Set aside.
For the Garlic Beans and Sunflower Greens
2 cups flat beans, cut into 5 cm/2″ pieces
1/4 cup young sunflower stem, chopped into 1cm (1/2″) pieces
1/4 cup sunflower sepals, pointy tips trimmed
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
In a medium pan, add the flat beans, sunflower stem pieces and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the beans and stems are cooked through. Strain and chill the beans and stems in ice water.
Strain the cooled beans and stems and add them to a bowl. Add the garlic, vinegar and salt. Toss lightly to combine.
For the salad:
Prepared Sweet Beet Sour Cream Dressing
Prepared Garlic Flat Beans and Sunflower Greens
Sunflower Petals from a small sunflower (about 1/4 cup in volume)
Mound half of the Garlic Flat Beans and Sunflower Greens over two plates. Top each with a dollop or two of Sweet Beet Sour Cream Dressing and scatter sunflower petals around each salad, either with design or more erratically. Serves 2.