Sunflower seeds are technically the fruits of the sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus). The seeds are harvested from the plant’s large flower heads, which can measure more than 30 cm in diameter. A single sunflower head may contain up to 2,000 seeds.
There are two main types of sunflower crops. One type is grown for the seeds you eat, while the other — which is the majority farmed — is grown for the oil.
The sunflower seeds you eat are encased in inedible black-and-white striped shells, also called hulls. Those used for extracting sunflower oil have solid black shells. Sunflower seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and a firm but tender texture. They’re often roasted to enhance the flavor, though you can also buy them raw.