How Much is Inside Sunflower Seeds

How much of this seed bag was filled with salty wood, and how much was actual edible kernel?

Have you tried sunflower seeds?

They aren't that great.

Apparently some people like them, because they sell like crazy at places like gas station mini-marts and baseball diamond snack shacks. They are cheap too. This 5.25 ounce bag (149 grams) of David's seeds was just 99 cents.

Inside each impenetrable woody shell sits a single tiny, delicious kernel. Here is the challenge: The only way to open the seed pod is to place the entire seed in your mouth and to crush it with your teeth.

Crushing it in this way releases the tender treat, but the resultant shell shards and woody splinters  immediately threaten the inside of your mouth. One wrong move and you'll have a mouth full of shredded tongue!

Scared? Too bad. There is simply no way to get the flavor out without chewing on a handful of these salty razor blades.

Not worth the risk? Oh, maybe not to you, but sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamin E and other nutrients. For many, particularly those suffering from neuromuscular problems such as spinocerebellar ataxia, the risk are worth it.

How much of this seed bag was filled with salty wood, and how much was actual edible kernel? On Monday night, we decided to find out.

The first task was to count the seeds. Inside were 952 seeds, enough to send an entire marching band to the hospital for oral lacerations.

Next we began the time-intensive work of opening the shells.

Jane and I cracked each shell with our teeth & seperated the parts into two piles: wheat and chaff.

It took ages. Each shell had to postitioned carefully before cracking and opened with care. Our skill levels rose with each of the first hundred seeds, but we peaked at about four seeds per minute.

After 90 minutes we ran out of daylight and had to utilize special equipment.

We continued until our batteries died and we were forced to move our operation indoors.

Indoors is no place for sunflower seeds. The disposable wooden shell, the open-mouth chewing and saliva management do not mesh well with carpets and glass coffeetables.

Seeds OK Seeds NO
  • trampoline
  • at the pond
  • compost heap
  • county fairgrounds
  • turkey hunting
  • graveside service
  • disk golf
  • airshow
  • Yankees / Sox game  
  • computer lab
  • at the pool
  • kitchen
  • county court
  • job hunting
  • funeral home
  • bacarrat tables
  • airport
  • Nutcracker

Eventually our lips got numb and our jaws grew weary of chewing on morsels of man-made driftwood. We tried wire cutters.

Finally, after 2 hours, and with Stacy helping we had collected one measly serving of shelled nuts - 1/4 cup (35 grams).

The husks filled 1-1/3 cups at 43.8 grams.

By volume, the kernals now represented just 16% of the whole package, while the inedible shells filled 84%.

My God, what an operation. All this time invested, for 35 grams of edible nut kernals?

Frankly, it would have taken less effort to obtain 35 grams of opium.

Was it worth the trouble?

Well it turns out that the real goal of sunflower seeds is not to successfully and efficiently extract the nutty kernals. The goal of sunflower seeds is to entertain you. To keep you occupied for an hour or two while delivering a tiny portion of digestible material.

Sounds like a website I know.