Sunflower Facts

The sunflower is a distinctive, flowering plant (Helianthus annuus L.), the seeds of which contain a valuable edible oil that contains more Vitamin E than any  other vegetable oil. Most sunflower oil is used in food products.  The seeds of confection varieties of sunflower are also sold for human consumption and birdseed.

Common Varieties

There are two types grown. The first is Oilseed. This small black seed is very high in oil content and is processed into sunflower oil and meal. It is also the seed of choice of most bird feeders. The second type is Non-oilseed (confectionery sunflower). This is a larger black and white striped seed used in a variety of food products from snacks to bread.

Major Products

There are three types of sunflower oil available; Mid-Oleic Linoleic and High Oleic sunflower oil. All are developed with standard breeding techniques. They differ in oleic levels and each one offers unique properties. With three types of sunflower oil available, sunflower oil meets the needs of consumer and food manufacturers alike for a healthy and high performance non-transgenic vegetable oil.

Confection sunflower seeds are normally black with white stripes and provide consumers with in-shell seeds and kernel. In-shell means the seed is left intact with the "meat" of the seed still in the shell. It is normally roasted and seasoned. It is eaten as a snack by cracking the shell with one's teeth, discarding the hull and eating the delicious morsel within. 'Chew and spit' is a great American pastime, especially at baseball games and other outdoor events. Kernel means the processor has mechanically removed the hull. The resulting kernel is now in a convenient form to be sold raw or roasted for snacking or as an ingredient. 

Processes Used

Confection sunflower seed is processed according to these steps:

Oil-type sunflower seed is normally processed according to these steps:

Physical pressing of the sunflower seed with subsequent hexane extraction of the remaining oil in the meal

Some smaller plants are only press-plants and do not apply the step of hexane extraction. This results in higher oil content in the meal.

Sunflower van Gogh