In Waimānalo, Sunflowers Are Grilled and Sprinkled with Cheese
Taste these blooms at Waimānalo Country Farms until July 18—after that, your next chance will be this fall.
On a sunny Saturday, I venture over the Pali for what I expect will be a stereotypical farm visit. At Waimānalo Country Farms I’m expecting to feed the resident goats, pigs and cows and fill my Instagram feed with gorgeous summer sunflowers. What I don’t expect is an entirely unusual foodie find.
I fill up my phone’s data plan with photos of the blooms and head up to the top of the family-run property at the base of the Ko‘olau. That’s when I spot the sign: “Grilled Sunflower Heads $10.” Excuse me, what? As a foodie, I’m always on the hunt for the newest trend or unique bite. This sure fits the bill. I order one and wander over to the outdoor kitchen to watch the grill master at work.
Turns out that when sunflowers start drooping in the fields, the family harvests the heads and removes the petals. Then the grill master brushes the sunflower heads with oil, sprinkles them with garlic, salt and pepper and places them seed-side down on the grill. He judges by feel when they’re ready to pull off, about 5 to 10 minutes. Then he plates up the flower heads and adds a final dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.
He hands me my sunflower straight off the grill. It looks like a portabella mushroom cap, about 6 inches wide. How do you eat it? After a quick tutorial, I dive in, scraping the seeds out with a fork and shoveling piles of them into my mouth.
The experience is nothing like eating roasted sunflower seeds. The texture is chewy and soft and the flavor savory and nutty. It reminds me of eating an artichoke heart. It takes some time and patience to scrape out all the seeds, but that’s part of the fun.
I love the idea of turning something old into something new again—sustainability at its best. Especially when this farm-to-table experience is more like table-on-farm: sitting at a picnic table looking out over the sunflower fields to Waimānalo Beach and the ocean beyond, listening to the friendly moos and oinks of the cows and pigs. Doesn’t get any more farm-fresh than this!
The summer sunflower event runs through this Sunday, July 18, but the farm is preparing for a similar fall event set to open the first week in October. You may also find the grilled sunflower heads for a limited time at the Kailua Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Kailua Town Center.
The summer sunflower event is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through July 18. Reservations are recommended, but not required. 41-225 Lupe St., Waimānalo, (808) 306-4381, waimanalocountryfarms.com, @waimanalocountryfarms