I had one of those Target experiences the other day – where you go in to kill time and walk out with $70 in purchases. But I’m ok with that decision because my prizes included two cheery glazed terra-cotta pots to start my sunflower shoots. And this is the time of year when we can really benefit from brightening things up with a splash of color – my adorable sunflower shoots in matching pots were just the thing for me!
Growing shoots is the next step up from growing sprouts, which you can do with just water in a tray or jar. With sprouts, you harvest the plant when it has barely grown, and the seed is eaten as well. Shoots however, take a bit longer to grow and require some light and a growing medium to support their more mature roots. Instead of eating the entire plant, you snip shoots off at the stem. Shoots are sturdier and more substantial than sprouts. I love to eat them raw, with hummus or on salads. The following information on materials and method was largely informed by the book Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard. You will see in the photos that my children helped me on this project – if they can do it, so can you!
A tray or container. Truly anything will do. I used my cute pots from the store and an old plastic produce container. There should be holes for drainage.
Soil. I used a combination of equal parts of vermiculite with organic compost, however I believe that potting or seed-starting soil would work just as well. You can find these at your local hardware or garden store.
Sunflower seeds. You will have the best success using sunflower seeds intended for sprouting. I ordered black organic sprouting seeds from Amazon.
1. Soak your seeds in water for 24-48 hours to speed the germination process.
2. Mix your soil with some water to pre-moisten it before planting. I let my kids stir it up in a mixing bowl. The soil should be crumbly, not dripping wet. This will also aid with germination.
3. Fill your container with about 1/2 inch of soil.
4. Densely scatter your seed over the soil.
5. Cover the seed with a very thin layer of soil. Press the soil down to ensure contact between the seeds and soil. Cover the container to retain the moisture – plastic wrap works well.
6. Once sprouts emerge, remove the covering and place the tray in a sunny spot. Keep the soil moist but not wet, carefully watering if needed. Good methods that won’t disrupt the seeds are to either moisten the soil with a spray bottle or water from beneath by dipping your tray in water and allowing the water to soak in through the drainage holes.
7. As the shoots grow, the first two petals will start to emerge. The sunflower seed’s shell will be stuck to these petals and you can gently brush or pick them off as they are ready.
8. Harvest the shoots any time after the first two petals have grown, but before the first set of true leaves emerge – these will start to emerge from between the first petals. Harvesting at this stage ensures the best taste and texture. To harvest, simply cut the shoots with a scissors just above soil level. With some exposure, your kids will come to love them if not right off the bat. Enjoy!!