Baseball season is officially here, and that means sales of sunflower seeds will skyrocket. I grew up eating sunflower seeds in the dugout, but I hadn’t seen seeds quite like the ones from Chinook Seedery, an Austin-based company that launched in 2015 and is now selling the biggest seeds I’ve ever seen in stores around the country.
Founder Mark Pettyjohn started the company in Colorado but shortly thereafter moved to Austin to be closer to Chinook’s co-packing facility in Tyler. He started with four flavors — dill pickle, Hatch green chile, Parmesan and pepper and original — and has since added smokehouse barbecue and cinnamon toast. The seeds are sold at Whole Foods, Sprouts and, as of last week, more than 100 H-E-Bs in Central and South Texas.
I tried these crazy flavors during my livestream on Facebook, but it was the size of the seeds that first caught my eye. Pettyjohn says they weren’t always quite so big. About 10 months ago, they started using a non-GMO Israeli sunflower seed grown in the Dakotas, which is part of America’s so-called sunflower belt. The cooler climate allows the seeds to grow to their full size of nearly an inch long. They are easier to crack, Pettyjohn says, but he knows not all customers want to crack them before eating, so keep an eye out for shelled products in the coming year or two.
Pettyjohn says that although we associate sunflower seeds with baseball, some of Chinook’s biggest fans are backpackers, campers, road trippers and even office workers who want something to snack on. The seeds come in a 4.7-ounce bag that retails for about $2.50 and a smaller 1.5-ounce bag for about 99 cents.