Austin-based sunflower seeds, peanut butter to welcome baseball season
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.
The size of the seeds is what first caught my eye, but 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. You can find out more about the company at chinookseedery.com.
Another local product that you’ll find in baseball stadiums across the country is one you might not expect: HomePlate Peanut Butter. HomePlate launched in 2015 with the goal of creating a peanut butter with excellent taste and texture but without the additives of most store-bought peanut butter.
Founders Clint Greenleaf and Danny Peoples, a former book publisher and retired baseball player, respectively, knew that peanut butter was the inexpensive food of choice among minor league players and that even major league players who weren’t on a budget liked the ease and nutrition found in high-quality peanut butter.
They launched with three versions — creamy, crunchy and a smooth honey-sweetened variety — and, as the official peanut butter of the Professional Baseball Clubhouse Managers Association, are now found in the clubhouses of all 30 MLB teams and a number of minor league teams, including the Round Rock Express and San Antonio Missions.
HomePlate uses non-GMO peanuts grown in Georgia to make their spreads, and unlike many nut butters in the natural foods space, theirs don’t separate on the shelf or require stirring before use. The jars cost between $4 and $5 and can be found at Central Market, Randall’s, Fiesta, Royal Blue, Thom’s Market, Riverside Market, Sprouts and, starting next month, Whole Foods Market in the Southwest region. Check out homeplatepb.com for more info.
HomePlate Power Cookies
We’re going all out with nut butter recipes in this week’s section, so I thought I’d feature these no-bake peanut butter cookies from HomePlate. You could use any kind of nut butter in this recipe, including a chunky homemade butter made with the nut or seed of your liking.
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
In a large bowl, stir together rolled oats, cinnamon, salt and protein powder, if using. Mix in pumpkin seeds, coconut and chocolate chips. Combine peanut butter and honey in a small bowl and microwave until thinned, about 20 seconds. Add to bowl and blend well. Shape into cookies on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for up to an hour, then store in a sealed container.
— HomePlate Peanut Butter
Cacao farmer from Ghana visiting Austin this weekend
Divine Chocolate, a fair trade chocolate company that started in the U.K. but has a U.S.-based office in Washington, D.C., is coming to Austin the first week of April for several chocolate-tasting events featuring one of the farmers from Ghana who grew the beans used in the chocolate.
Mercy Zaah is a longtime cocoa farmer and member of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Co-op, which has co-owned Divine Chocolate since its inception. The co-op has more than 85,000 members in Ghana who sell their beans to Divine, which in turn sells chocolate bars to customers all over the world.
Zaah will be in Austin for two events on Sunday. The first is a tasting from 11 a.m. to noon at Ten Thousand Villages of Austin, 4803 Burnet Road, and the second is a chocolate and beer pairing event from 4 to 6 p.m. at Black Star Co-op, 7020 Easy Wind Drive. Both events are free, but at Black Star, you’ll have to buy your beer tasting flight of Black Star’s craft beer to go with the complimentary chocolate samples.
Deep Eddy Vodka launches newest flavor — pulp-free orange
Deep Eddy Vodka is on a roll with its new flavors. Less than a year after the release of its peach-flavored vodka, the Dripping Springs-based distiller is now selling Deep Eddy Orange, a vodka that gets its bright orange color and flavor from fresh orange juice.
The spirit, which you can drink on the rocks or mixed into a cocktail, doesn’t have any pulp, says Deep Eddy president John Scarborough.It is the sixth flavored product on the line, in addition to peach, lemon, Ruby Red grapefruit, cranberry and sweet tea. The suggested retail price is $19.99 for a 750 mL bottle, and you can find it in stores nationwide.
Want to know what cinnamon toast sunflower seeds and no-stir honey peanut butter taste like? I’ll be taste-testing both of these products and talking about the latest food news in my weekly livestream Wednesday at 1 p.m. at facebook.com/austin360.