Sunflower seed pesto-pate / How to open a sunflower seed in 3 slick moves

Alfredo and I were both raised on plenty of sunflower seeds.

He used to crack them out of their shell. You know, the black and white shelled ones that you can only buy in pet shops here, only in Spain they are roasted and salted in the shell. Eating pipas is a special part of the Spanish culture, and your upbringing determines whether you spit the shells all over, toss them onto the ground, or make a nice neat pile on a table or in your pocket. How you open them however, transcends all social divide. Everyone does it in a similar way; it takes a special kind of manouvre with teeth, and then tongue to get the seed out, a kind of clack-clack-flick thing. When I met Alfredo, I used to nibble down the side of the shell like a rodent, and then prise it open with my nail, and pull out one seed, by the time he had eaten 10 or 12, lamenting “it’s a lot of work for one little seed.”  “It’s the experience Beth. It’s all part of it” (clack-clack-flick…)  Now I can clack-clack-flick with the best of them. (I make a pile of the shells, just to mention).

While Alfredo was shelling pipas in Spain,  I was eating them too in Norwich, only unroasted, the regular kind of health-food store seeds that I still buy today. They were generally always in our snack cupboard, along with tiger nuts, and other such delights. I did really enjoy sunflower seeds, I remember, and I still do. All of that was by way of introduction to this next simple, delicious recipe.

Sunflower seed pate is simply made by soaking a cup of seeds for a few hours, and then blending them to a paste (in the food processor, not blender) with whichever flavours you enjoy. Mine was simply:

  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds, soaked and drained
  • the juice of half a large lemon
  • a very small glug of olive oil
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of water
  • a massive handful of basil (Not enough for a family pesto meal, so it had my name on it…..)

Spread on wholesome crackers, or dollop unceremoniously on top of a salad. I did the latter, and you know what- it looks beautiful to me.








Cool nutritioney bit: Unroasted sunflower seeds are very rich in Vitamin E. This is one of the main fat-soluble antioxidants found in cholesterol particles and helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol. Only after it has been oxidized is cholesterol able to adhere to blood vessel walls , increasing risks of strokes and heart disease.

It makes sense then, as well as avoiding harmful cholesterol, to build a diet rich in natural anti-oxidants. It’s easy. You’ve guessed it. Eat more raw plants 🙂


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