The Truth About TikTok's Grilled Sunflower Trend

While most of us might be used to having our sunflowers in a garden for show and their seeds prepackaged or pressed into an oil ready to be used for cooking, there are actually other ways to enjoy this blossom. We're talking about this in a culinary sense, and we have social media to thank for this discovery. 

A new food trend has been brewing on TikTok, home of Dalgona coffee and pancake cereal. This one involves lopping off the head of an unsuspecting sunflower, de-leafing it, tossing it in olive oil, and then slapping it down on the barbecue before serving it up 15 minutes later (via Delish).

While the act might seem a bit barbaric and could well shock sunflower lovers who prefer to see flowers in vases, not on grills, as Green City Growers points out, this plant is edible. All of it. Not just its seeds but the sunflower itself, from the tips of its golden petals straight down to its roots. Vegetarian blogger Michael Natkin describes sunflower shoots as having "a lovely, refreshing crunch with hints of nuttiness and lemon. They are similar to daikon radish sprouts, but without the spiciness" (via The New York Times). 

Other food cultures enjoy consuming sunflowers whole

Shoots aside, the TikTok trend involving eating flowers whole didn't develop in a vacuum. In 2018, TV chef Andrew Zimmern gave Pennsylvania-based chef Tomasz Skowronski a shoutout on Instagram in a post describing the perfect sunflower to munch on. "The key to @aptekapgh sunflower dish is finding a sunflower that's bloomed but where the seeds are still elongated and immature, soft, with no 'shell' forming yet," Zimmern said about choosing the right sunflower to serve at your next party.

Delish spoke to chef Tomasz Skowronski, who confirmed that eating sunflowers is most definitely a thing in parts of the world, particularly in Poland, where he grew up. "In the countryside, it's really common to see people eating whole heads of sunflower that are fully mature. Kids will be sitting on a fence picking and eating it, or you'll have guys drinking a beer and eating it."

And while the sunflower is edible from tip to root, Skowronski says he has his druthers on when the blossoms should be harvested if it is to be enjoyed for more than its looks. "We figured out a time period that [lent sunflowers] to being eaten more easily," the chef said. That meant harvesting sunflowers sooner so the seeds wouldn't be as tough.

Not all sunflowers should be eaten

But what does sunflower taste like? We get a hint from Redleaf Ranch's Brian Brigantti, who recorded their experience of harvesting a sunflower and throwing it on the grill (via TikTok). Brigantti told Delish, "The actual taste of it was so interesting. I've never had a sunflower like that. When you have the seeds so young, they get a really nice crisp to them but are still really soft. They kind of pop in your mouth."

If you're interested in giving sunflowers a go, Green City Growers says to look for sunflowers that have been grown organically so you're not exposing yourself to pesticides or any other dodgy things gardeners spray on their flowers to make them pretty and bug-free. You might also want to check around to make sure no one you're eating with suffers from trypophobia (fear of close-together holes, per Healthline), or you might end up with a more memorable dining experience than you'd bargained for.