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About Sunflower Seeds and Kernels

Jars with in-shell seeds and kernels
Sunflower seeds are an American original. Called either confection or non-oil, seeds are a delicious and nutritious snack or addition to your favorite food.

It is a native species to North America and was used by American Indians for an important, high-energy food source. Spanish explorers carried it with them to Europe. Russian agronomists were responsible for the first agricultural hybrids. These returned to the United States with Russian and German immigrants.

Sunflower began as an important agronomic crop in the U.S. in the 1950's, starting in North Dakota and Minnesota.


Seeds, kernel, what is the difference?
The answer, there isn't a difference. Here is how the NSA refers to sunflower seeds/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.

Confection/Non-oil Sunflower Characteristics
Confection sunflower seeds are normally black with white stripes and approximately five eighths of an inch long. The heavy hull accounts for approximately half the weight of the seed and is loosely fixed to the kernel inside. Seed size is primarily affected by plant genetics, but also to planting density and weather.

Sunflower seeds are graded according to size and separated into groups. The largest size will go into the in-shell market. The medium-sized seeds are usually hulled for the kernel market. The smallest size will go into the bird and pet feeding market.





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