From Plantation to Plate |The Journey of Sunflower Oil
Botanically known as Helianthus Annuus, sunflower is the source of one of the most popular and healthiest vegetable oils; sunflower oil. With its mild flavor and golden hue, sunflower oil has become a kitchen staple around the world. Yet, the story of this versatile cooking oil begins long before it graced our plates in abundance with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.
It begins with a vast sunflower garden, where the radiant yellow petal flowers sway under the sun’s warm embrace to a meticulous extraction process that transforms the seeds into a golden elixir. So, fasten your seatbelts as we are about to take you on the journey of sunflower oil. We will start with plantation in the farms and will take you all the way to extraction in factories and cooking with sunflower oil in your kitchen.
Extraction of Sunflower Oil: How Is Sunflower Oil Made?
Originating from South and Central America, sunflower oil first came from Europe in the 16th century. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that researchers discovered sunflower seeds as the primary source of oil. Even today, the purest form of sunflower oil comes from countries like Romania, Argentina, and France. Manufacturers press hundreds of kilos of sunflower seeds to produce approximately 45 liters of sunflower oil. Here is everything you need to know about the extraction of sunflower oil.
1. Cultivating Sunflower Plants
The production process of sunflower oil begins with the plantation of the sunflower seeds. Featuring tall and large stems and vibrant yellow flowers that follow the sun’s direction throughout the day, sunflower plants are cultivated during the early summer and spring seasons in regions with favorable climatic conditions.
2. Harvesting Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower plants take about three to four months to reach optimal growth. Once the flowers bloom, the sunflower plant uses the sunlight to produce seeds in the flower’s head. Over time the weight of the sunflower seeds starts turning its head brown. Seeing this, farmers cut the sunflower heads in order to harvest the dry seeds, which are then sent to factories for further processing.
3. Sunflower Seed Extraction and Cleaning
Once the sunflower heads have dried, the manufacturer carefully removes the seeds using mechanical machines or manual power. The harvested seeds are then cleaned and passed over magnets to remove metal traces and impurities such as plant debris, damaged seeds, and dirt. This step is critical as it ensures the quality of the sunflower oil.
4. Sunflower Seed Preparation
After the seeds have dried, they undergo a comprehensive preparation procedure for oil extraction. Dehulling is a process that involves pressing the sunflower seeds to remove the hulls or seed coats. A pneumatic or centrifugal sheller is used to apply high pressure to crack the seeds and separate the kernels from the hulls.
The dehulled sunflower seeds are crushed in grooved roller or hammer mills to produce fine particles. They are then heated to prepare the seeds for sunflower oil extraction and remove any remaining impurities.
5. Sunflower Oil Extraction
The heated kernels are transferred via a slotted barrel to a screw press that progressively applies pressure from 60 to 950 and then 850kps. The sunflower oil extraction process separates the oil from the solid components.
For further extraction of the sunflower oil, volatile hydrocarbon solvents (like hexane) are employed to dissolve the oil out of the remaining seeds. Distillation is performed on the liquid to distill out the oil collected at the bottom.
Crude sunflower oil undergoes further refining to enhance its flavor, odor, color, and quality. The procedure involves the removal ofimpurities like phospholipids, pro-oxidant, and fatty acids through degumming, neutralizing, bleaching, and deodorizing. In some cases, de-waxing and winterization are used to further modify the sunflower oil.
Finally, deodorization is conducted by placing the hot oil in a vacuum, and steam is passed over it at temperatures between 225 and 250 degrees Celsius. This step evaporates the volatile compounds, giving the sunflower oil its authentic color, taste, texture, and odor.
7. Packaging and Distribution
After clearing the quality test, the sunflower oil is sent for packing. It is transferred into dark-colored containers and bottles whichprotect the sunflower seed oil from oxidation and light. The sunflower oil is distributed to retailers and stores.
Sunflower Oil | Nutritional Value
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sunflower oil contains many polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Sunflower seed oil’s predominant fatty acid content includes oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, selenium, carotenoids, and lecithin, which plays an integral role in maintaining a balance of essential health elements in the human body.
The vitamin E content in sunflower oil is noteworthy, as a single serving provides 28% of the recommended intake. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and helps protect cells from oxidative damage.
With everyone wanting to stay fit and active, it is fair to say that sunflower oil is one of the healthiest vegetable oils on the market. The table below shows the nutritional value of one tablespoon (approximately 13.6 grams) of sunflower oil.
Benefits and Uses of Sunflower Oil
In this section, we will explore the benefits of using sunflower oil. Let’s begin!
1. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in which sunflower seeds have phytosterols that help minimize cholesterol absorption inthe bloodstream. Another study proved that consuming sunflower oil daily can reduce LDL cholesterol, triglyceride concentration, and serum cholesterol levels while increasing HDL-C (good cholesterol) levels.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Sunflower oil has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of respiratory conditions such as asthma attacks. Polyunsaturated fats in sunflower oil strengthen the membrane barriers, making it impossible for bacteria and viruses to attack your body.
3. Boosts Energy Levels
High in fatty acid, sunflower oil can give you an instant energy boost. While the saturated fats might make you feel sluggish, the unsaturated fats in sunflower oil will give you enough energy to stay active throughout the day.
Sunflower oil has a high smoke point between 440 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the ideal choice for high-heat cooking applications like sautéing, deep frying, roasting, and stir-frying. Here are three sunflower oil recipes for you to try:
1. Fried Mozzarella Sticks – The Appetizer
If you are a cheese lover, this sunflower oil recipe will satisfy your cravings and leave your guest wanting more. Follow the instructions to the tee to make scrumptious mozzarella sticks.
- 4 1/4 cups of sunflower oil
- 12 slices of white bread loaf
- 2 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs
- 1 cup of flour
- Salt to taste
- 5 large eggs
- 500 grams of mozzarella cheese
Step 01: Start by cutting the mozzarella into 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices.
Step 02: Take a tray, line it with blotting paper, place the mozzarella slices, and cover them with another blotting paper.
Step 03: Use your hand to press the mozzarella in order to remove excess water gently. You can also use a paper towel to do this.
Step 04: Place the bread slices on a cutting board, add salt to taste, and then place a cheese slice. Cover with another slice of bread to make a sandwich.
Step 05: Press both slices to ensure the cheese spreads evenly. Now, use a knife to cut the crust (sides). Cut the mozzarella sandwich vertically to make four strips. Repeat the step for the remaining cheese slices.
Step 06: Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them. Take two more dishes and place the breadcrumbs and flour into them, respectively.
Step 07: Now pick up the stuffed bread, dip it into the flour, then into the egg mixture, and finally into the breadcrumbs. Let the breadcrumbs covered stuff bread pieces rest for a few minutes.
Step 08: On the other hand, place a frying pan on the stove, pour the sunflower oil, and heat it at a temperature of 170 to 180 degrees Celsius.
Step 09: Put the 3 to 4 strips at one time. Fry them for 1 to 3 minutes until each side turns golden brown.
Step 10: Place the fried mozzarella strips into an absorbent paper-lined tray to remove the excess oil. Serve the mozzarella strips with ketchup and garlic mayo.
2. Grilled BBQ Chicken – The Main Course
Perfect for a dinner date or evening meal, the grilled BBQ chicken will make you feel full and provide you with all the essential nutrients while helping you cut down on calories.
- 3 chopped green onions
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 2 cups chicken teriyaki sauce
- 1/4 cup of sunflower oil
- 1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
- Chicken drumsticks, wings, and thighs
- BBQ sauce
Step 01: Take a large bowl and add honey, apple cider vinegar, sunflower oil, chicken teriyaki sauce, and green onions and mix them.
Step 02: Next, add the chicken drumsticks, wings, and thighs to the mixture, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it marinate for 6 to 8 hours.
Step 03: Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and microwave it for 7 to 9 minutes.
Step 04: Now brush the chicken pieces with sunflower oil and place them on a grill at medium-high heat for 7 minutes.
Step 05: Once the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, drizzle some BBQ sauce and let it grill for a few more minutes. Remove the grilled BBQ chicken from the grill and serve it with a salad, rice, pasta, or tortillas.
3. Chocolate Chip Cookies – The Dessert
Want to make butter-free chocolate chip cookies using sunflower oil? Follow the below-mentioned recipe to make delicious chocolate chip cookies in less than 30 minutes:
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of sunflower oil
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
Step 01: Use a knife to chop the dark chocolate and place it in a glass bowl to microwave. While the chocolate melts, take another bowl, crack the eggs, and use a manual whisk to beat them with sugar.
Step 02: Add the sunflower oil and melted chocolate to the beaten eggs and mix until it forms a thick paste.
Step 03: Next, stir the cocoa, vanilla extract, yeast, flour, and chocolate chips.
Step 04: Knead the dough using your hand and let it rest for 60 to 70 minutes in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to cover the bowl with a plastic wrap.
Step 05: Take out the dough, break off small pieces, roll them in your hand, and press them with your palm to give the circular cookie shape. Press each cookie into a bowl filled with chocolate chips to give them a crunchy texture.
Step 06: Take a baking tray and line it with parchment paper. Place the cookies onto the tray and then bake them in a preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 338 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 07: Once baked, take out the cookie tray and serve them with ice cream or a mug of hot chocolate or coffee.
High in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and essential vitamins and minerals, sunflower oil, is a heart-healthy vegetable oil that can provide you with a plethora of health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation, boosting energy levels, and improving skin. You can use the lightly textured and mildly flavored cooking oil for deep frying, stir-frying, sautéing, roasting, baking, salad dressings, aromatherapy, massage, and moisturizing skin.
Remember that while sunflower oil can be a valuable addition to your balanced diet due to its calorie-dense nature, moderation is the key. In order to obtain a well-rounded nutritional profile, it is recommended to incorporate a variety of healthy fats from different sources. Use our guide to make delicious sunflower oil recipes and take the first step towards a healthy lifestyle.
Are you looking for high-quality sunflower oil? Maverik Oils is a growing brand and national distributor committed to providing its customers with premium quality oils and ingredients at their doorstep. Visit our website or contact us to order a carton of sunflower oil today.