Sunflowers are flowers from the Asteraceae family (sunflower family). They are a new world crop, but are now very widespread in Europe. Sunflower seeds are a common source for oil and can be eaten directly (very for salad!).
Sunflower seeds are considered kitniyot and appear on pretty much every list, but I haven’t been able to find a clear reason why. Here are two rather strange statements that would suggest that sunflower seeds should be permitted:
- "Some authorities consider this species to be the type of kitniyos referred to as “shumshmin” (see Marcheshes I:3, who makes the linguistic comparison between the name “sunflower” and the Hebrew word for the sun – “shemesh” – which he assumes to be the source of the name “shumshmin”). Other authorities, however, question this linguistic relationship (the correct pronunciation is “sumsimin”, which is unrelated to the word “shemesh”), and permit the use of sunflower oil on Pesach." (Know Thy Beans)
- "Resp. Bet Shearim OH 215. The author (Rabbi Amram Bloom), wrote that, in principle, sunflower seeds should not be considered kitniyot, but, after consultation with Rabbi Yekutiel Yudah Teitelbaum, he prohibited their consumption on Pesah. [Resp. Beit Shlomo YD 177 is also cited as prohibiting sunflower seeds, but I have been unable to verify that reference as I have done in the case of other references here. – GLB]" (R. Barnard: Kitniyot)
I don’t think raw sunflower seeds (with or without hull) can be confused with chametz grains. I would usually assume a bag of sunflower seeds will not contain accidental chametz grains, I have never seed that and I have eaten my share of sunflower seeds. There is sunflower flour on the internet, but it is not something people often use. Of course, every flour could be processed on the same equipment as chametz flour and of course it looks like … flour. In any case, this could be solved with kashrut supervision, just like every other product needs to be checked for chametz. There should be no reason not to permit sunflower oil, as there are two doubts involved, about the kitniot status of sunflower seeds and if derivatives should be forbidden (see soy derivates).
If anybody has a good reason why sunflower seeds should be kitniot, please tell me. I am really surprised to see them on every list without any discussion.
- Danger of chametz traces: No.
- Danger of confusion with chametz (raw): No.
- Danger of confusion with chametz (processed): No.
- Botanical categorization: Asteraceae (flower)
- Known in 13th century: No.
- Verdict: Not kitniot.