Tender sunflower buds ( Helianthus annuus ) are edible with a flavor similar to artichokes. Here is how to prepare your very own sunflower buds. Choose young, tightly-closed flower buds (see image), when buds are most tender and mildly flavored. Cutting the stem below the flower and just above the next branch will encourage new branches and flowers.
- If you aren't going to cook them right away, place the stem in a vase of fresh, room temperature water very soon after cutting; your buds will store for a few days this way.
- Cut the stems again to 1"-2" and rinse the buds before blanching them.
- Blanch the flower buds by immersing in salted, boiling water or broth for 1 to 2 minutes; drain and repeat a second time with fresh water/broth, until they are soft enough to pierce easily with a fork. Cook time for large buds may be longer.
- Drain and cool the cooked buds.
- Trim away the green parts from the bud with a paring knife to reveal the center, which even looks a bit like an artichoke heart.
Prepare your sunflower "artichokes" any way you would artichokes. Some of our favorite ways are grilling with lemon and herbs, pickling, marinating in olive oil with garlic and Italian seasonings, or sautéing in olive oil or butter with garlic, salt, and pine nuts, or better yet, sunflower seeds!