Two sunflowers in a field against a clear blue sky
Grilled sunflower heads are a TikTok viral sensation for the second year in a row, and why shouldn’t they be? Sunflowers are much more than just a pretty face, especially when you pull that face off and toast their sweet, juicy innards. Indigenous Americans discovered this about 3,500 years ago, so the hungry folks at TikTok are a little late, better late than never.
Before hitting TikTok, Delish reports that sunflowers first went viral in 2018 when Chef Tomasz Skowronski put them on the menu at Apteka in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Andrew Zimmer posted an Instagram ode to the “insanely good” dish. Skowronski told Delish that whole sunflower heads are a common summer snack in his native Poland.
Sunflower fever hit Facebook in the summer of 2020 when cook Jenna Asher of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds posted her whole sunflower head experiments while researching indigenous foods. A video of Asher preparing a whole roasted sunflower with sundried tomatoes eventually went to TikTok and the flowery locks flew open.
In a recent video, Brian Brigantti of Redleaf Ranch, Tennessee, explains how to harvest, clean, and cook the “new” edible phenomenon. “For a grilled sunflower head, you want to use a head that is not yet fully developed,” he explains. “So the seeds will still be lighter and a lot softer.”
After removing the sunflower petals and washing them thoroughly, Brigantti rubs the head with a little oil and a few simple spices before throwing it face down on a grill, opening the lid and allowing it to cook undisturbed for five minutes. Finally, he sprinkles it with spring onions and Tajín spice. The video inspired other popular TikTok gardeners like Tara Ratcliffe to experiment; Ratcliffe makes her elotes-style sunflower heads and smears them with flavored mayonnaise, coriander, cheese, and lots of fresh lime juice before devouring them with her bare hands. Ratcliffe says you can eat it with a fork, but where’s the fun in that?
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