Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Do you know how sunflower seeds were dehulled in the 18th century or earlier by woodland Indians and or colonials?
Thanks for your time.

We're finding several references to Native American sunflower cultivation and use, but precious little regarding the dehulling process. Below please find two passages (one from the Eastern Woodland/Iroquois, the other from southwest American Zunis). Attached please find an 18 page scholarly article "The Sunflower among the North American Indians." While it does not specifically answer your question, it does provide a wealth of information and resources for further study.

"The sunflower...was frequently cultivated, either together with corn and beans, or in patches by itself, and furnished an oil which was highly esteemed. The Hurons and Iroquois generally are said to have sown but little of it, though they made from it and oil 'to annoint themselves.' The Indians of Virginia made of it 'both a kinde of bread and broth.' The oil was said, by a Mohawk informant, to have been made by roasting the seeds slightly, then pounding them in mortar, after which the material was boiled and the oil skimmed off. The oil, at present, is used principally for ceremonial purposes, such as the  anointing of the masks used by the False-face society. It was also stated by Chief Gibson to be good for the hair and to prevent it from falling out or changing colour."
---Iroquois Foods and Food Preparation, F. W. Waugh, facsimile 1916 edition [University Press of the Pacific:Honolulu] 2003(p. 78)

 "There is also another large herb, which resembles the marigold, about six feet high. The head is a span in width with the flower. Some believe it to be planta solis

[sunflower] From its seeds a kind of bread and also a broth are made."

SOURCE: Hariot, A Brief & True Report (online) : http://www.nps.gov/fora/forteachers/the-second-part.htm

 "The nuts and sunflower-seeds were shucked by being reheated in the roasting-tray, and, while still hot, rolled lightly under the muller, or molina, on a coarse slab
of lava. The brittle shells were broken by this slight pressure, while the oily meats, rendered soft by the warmth, came out clean and perfect. In this shape they were
usually eaten. If designed for thickening soups or stews, which purpose they served admirably, or for use as shortening, they were carefully parched yet again until
friable, then slightly ground on a fine-grained stone. So rich were the sunflower and suthl'-to-k'ia seeds that no amount of drying made it possible to reduce them to
meal except in the condition of paste. As such, however, they were formed with the fingers into little patti-cakes which, laid on leaves, or hardened by roasting deep buried in the ashes, were eaten with other food in the place of meat, supplying the lack of the latter, at least to the taste, most admirably."

SOURCE: Zuni Breadstuff (p. 252-253) http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/books/zunibreadstuff/zuni.html


Mark said...

Magnificent shots of sunflowers. Keith you have such an amazing and interesting blog.
Regards Mark

Le Loup said...

Thank you Mark, I appreciate the feedback.
Good to hear from you again.