Turning Sunflowers Into Sauce In Tanzania

In this two-part series, we’ve asked two sunflower farmers in Tanzania to show us how they use their sunflower seeds in cooking.

Looking out over the hills and fields of Iringa, Tanzania last March, it was as though everything was covered in warm gold. The brilliant yellow hues could only mean one thing: sunflower harvesting season had arrived!

Many farmers in the Iringa region of Tanzania grow sunflowers in addition to staple crops such as maize and beans. Last year, One Acre Fund offered sunflower seed and planting trainings as part of our loan package.

Sunflower blossoms are beautiful, but their main value is their seeds. Sunflower seed oil is useful for cooking, and farmers will also grind the seeds and use the flour (called “husee wa kuhata mmboga” in Kihehe, the local language) to thicken sauces and stews.

After we shared our last sunflower photo essay, one of the most common questions we received from readers was, “How do farmers make food and oil from their sunflowers?”

In this two-part series, we’ve asked two sunflower farmers in Tanzania to show us how they use their sunflower seeds in cooking.

One of the primary ways farmers use sunflower seeds is for sauce-making. We asked Flora Chambogo, a One Acre Fund farmer from Malagosi, to show us how she turns her seeds into a sauce for lunch for her family.

The process starts by letting the flowers dry on their stalks. After the flower heads dry out, Flora cuts them and lays them in the sun to dry further. Later, Flora beats the flowers to knock the seeds loose. The individual seeds are then laid in the sun to dry.

Once the seeds are dried out, Flora decides how much she wants to grind into flour. After choosing her quantity, Flora puts the seeds into a winnowing basket to separate them from the chaff.

For lunch, Flora chooses to use a small quanity of her sunflower seeds.
Flora winnows her sunflower seeds

Next Flora hand crushes the seeds into flour. 

To hand crush the seeds Flora uses a large mortar and pestle.

Once Flora achieves a fine dust, she puts the smashed sunflower seeds into a sieve and begins to separate the flour from the shell casings. 

The sieved flour, ready for making into sauce.

Once the flour is ready, Flora boils water and mixes flour with the boiled water for a few minutes. Then she chops up onions and tomatoes to mix with the sauce. Later she will also stir in some local greens. 

Flora puts the sunflower seed flour into a pot of boiling water.
Flora cooking the sunflower seed sauce.

Flora leaves the saucepan on the fire, letting it simmer until the sauce is thick and ready to be eaten. 


Farmer stories