Welcome to Rostov-on-Don, the sunflower capital of the world. I just made that up, to be totally honest. But you know, if it's not the Sunflower Capital of the world, this area deserves to be. They say that Russia is the foremost producer of sunflower seeds and that the Rostov Region is home to 20% of the sunflower growing area in Russia. Probably more sunflowers than Kansas, anyway.
Come summer, there are sunflowers galore around here. If you love sunflower seeds or sunflower seed oil or the candy made from sunflower seeds or even the candy made from sunflower seed husks, this is a good place to be. Welcome!
How 'bout some seeds right now? This babyshka, this dear Russian grandmother, roasted them herself just for you. And a few extra rubles would help supplement her pension.
Russians chew sunflower seeds like Americans chew gum. Or popcorn or peanuts in the shell. They sit and nibble sunflower seeds absentmindedly. Above are Zhenya and Zhenya nibbing seeds last Saturday afternoon in our church kitchen. But we certainly wouldn't want to accuse them of absentminded nibbling.
Most often people drop hulls everywhere – on tables, under park benches. Worse than birds. And believe me, I know a thing or two about birds and their seed-throwing habits. Worse than little piglets, they are. The birds, that is.
These seeds belong to a lady selling fruit and nibbling seeds during slow times. Oddly enough, she declined the opportunity to demonstrate for you the art of seed splitting. Very different from seed spitting, of course.
Back in the time of the czars, Russian soldiers were sent off into the field with a 2-pound sack of sunflower seeds for food. Quite nutritious – protein, iron, potassium but plenty of calories too. Now if a bumblebee happened into the seeds, the protein value would skyrocket. As would the soldier if he got stung. Oy!
In this area, chances are most every household has a bowl of seeds for folks to dip into, like bowl of candy. Certainly more nutritious than M & Ms. Although not nearly as colorful.
Have you nibbled on sunflower seeds lately? Well what's holding you back? ;)