Sunflower Oil: Everything’s Coming Up Sunflowers

By Kelli Billstein

img_3459-1The only complaint that Tom and Jenni Smude are hearing about their new cold-pressed sunflower oil is that customers like the flavor so much that the bottle basically empties itself.

“When are you coming back to the market?” a woman from Onamia, Minnesota asked Tom one day this summer. “I’m already out of your sunflower oil, and I need more.”

Tom advised her to go to one of their supermarket or co-op carriers to pick up another bottle, to which the woman said she’d tried that already without any luck: the shelves were empty.

The Smudes are newcomers to the sunflower oil industry. They’ve been raising beef cows and crops on their farm near Pierz, Minnesota since 1999. In 2009, they expanded to include a processing plant for cold-pressed sunflower oil. Though a very young operation, it’s already seeing success.

Sunflowers do well in dry climatic conditions, which suited the Smudes’ farm well. After harvesting the plants, they separate the hull from the seed. Then the meat (inside of the seed) is crushed to release its oil. This oil gets filtered and cold-pressed in a natural, chemical-free environment.

“The taste is unbelievable,” Tom says, describing it as sweet and nutty. He explains that sunflower oil can be used in all the same ways that olive oil and butter can, but it’s better for your health. For sunflower oil’s one gram of saturated fat per serving, olive oil has two, and butter has seven. Sunflower oil is also high in Vitamin E.

The Smudes recommend using their oil for flavoring popcorn or for sautéing vegetables. Currently, the oil is being put to use in restaurants like Spoonriver and is finding its way onto (and just as quickly, off of) shelves in co-ops and grocery stores around the Twin Cities. A listing of distributors can be found at: www.smudeoil.com.

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