Thursday, July 5, 2012

Harvesting the Big Boys

I have loved these big boys the entire time.  They started out as just a tiny seed.  Hard to imagine how something so big could come from something so tiny.

Then they started growing - like a weed!  Actually, they grew taller, stronger, and more majestic than any weed around here.  Their stiff stalks seemingly grew to the skies.  Then blooms appeared.

Fun, cheerful blooms.  They were happy.  And they made me happy.


Then they began to age and grow old.  Their faces began to drop.  Their petals began to fall.  Although they still put on a mighty show, it was apparent that they were declining rapidly.


And then the day came.  It was time to harvest the sunflower seeds.  How do you know when to harvest sunflowers?  The back of their heads turn yellow.


You may even see some of the seeds underneath.


If you wait too long, you may lose some seeds.


The dried brown stuff, and the yellow/green pods on the heads can just be wiped away.  (Not sure what to call this, so I'm using "brown stuff" as the technical term!)

Some people keep the heads on, and place paper bags on them to catch the falling seeds.  Some people cut off their heads and hang them up to dry.  Some just lay them out where air can circulate around them.  The seeds are easily tickled out of the heads.  Since I didn't have a good spot to hang them, I decided to lay mine out.


I ran across a vendor selling sunflower seed heads at the farmers market.  Although I enjoy eating them raw, she shared this recipe with me for salted and roasted sunflower seeds:

1 cup Sunflower seeds
2 qts. water
1/2 cup salt
  1. Add water and salt in a pot or saucepan.  Rinse sunflower seeds and remove any plant and flowerhead matter.  (Notice she doesn't use the technical term "brown stuff", but the more sophisticated "flowerhead matter".  I'll have to remember that.)
  2. Add sunflower seeds to the water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
  3. Simmer 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  4. Drain on a paper towel until dry.  Do not rinse. 
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spread seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Stir frequently.
  6. Remove from oven when they are slightly brown.

She also said that, at least in Texas, if you plant now, you can harvest them in the fall.  So, if you want to grow your own sunflower seeds, you just might want to give this a try!  Remember, the smaller sunflowers are purely ornamental.  If you want to harvest sunflower seeds, get the big boys.


The black seeds are from the sunflower 'American Giant', while the white seeds are from the sunflower 'Mammoth'.  Both will be good to eat!

I'm joining The Gardening Blog for their Garden Bloggers Harvest Day.

38 comments:

  1. Your post reminds me so much of the painting Sunflowers by Van Gogh, which depicts the cycle of life through the blooms depicted in different stages :)

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    1. Oh, I hadn't thought of Van Gogh's painting. Now I will every time I look at those sunflower heads! :)

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  2. I have one volunteer sunflower in the front garden. As I left the house this morning I noticed it was blooming. I know I didn't plant it there so it must have been a squirrel planting.

    By the way power just restored this morning here after Friday's storm. Still no internet so this is being written using the library computer system.

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    1. I have been wondering about the power outages! What an ordeal! I hope you're doing fine through it all.

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  3. I love the look of sunflowers but no room here to grow them. Of course if I wanted seeds from them all the time I'd probably do it anyway. :)
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. They do get big! But, you're right - if we gardeners want something bad enough, we'll find a spot for them! haha

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  4. I love to plant these for my blue jays and squirrels...lovely post

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    1. You are much nicer than I! I wanted these to eat! I kept telling those birds to stay away! :)

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  5. This reminds me to look for sunflowers...I planted them but do not see them...too little rain and a forgetful gardener. I love yours. I need to get better at jotting down where I plant them and making sure they get a bit of water to start growing...Every year I plant them and then no rain. Yours are wonderful!!

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    1. This was the first time for me to plant them, and I have to say I really fell in love! I can imagine doing all kinds of fun things with sunflowers now!

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  6. I love sunflowers! So do the deer so we struggle to keep them in our gardens each year. We did not plant any this year and good thing with this drought as they would have needed water and I dont normally water in the area I plant sunflowers... I miss them though so next year, they will more then likely be back in our gardens...

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    1. Our deer, thankfully, didn't bother them. I guess they were too busy eating some of our other vegetables. Sorry to hear about your drought. That's always a hard things to get through.

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  7. I planted the sunflower seeds years ago, but our summer is short and the seeds were not ready up to fall.

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    1. Our summer is long, I guess that's why we could have two harvests if we wanted. But I'm not going to plant any more this year. I may again next year, though. I think they were fun!

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  8. Very nice! When my beds get full of better dirt I'm going to try planting sunflowers again (since they were quite stunted in my clay!) Every year I add more and more compost.. I'd love to be able to harvest sunflower seeds - how fun!

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    1. We have horrible clay, too, but my husband had tilled this area. They got a lot taller than I expected! Good luck with your soil. I think that's one of the hardest things for a gardener, because there's no quick or easy fix.

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  9. Hi There, I love Sunflowers.. Can't wait to go to Biltmore and see the HUGE FIELDS of them --in August I think... They are awesome...

    Good Luck with the seeds.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Oh, I can only imagine fields of sunflowers!!!! How fabulous that would be!

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  10. Sunflower seeds are addicting. I get them at the farm and toast them as you noted. I love pumpkin seeds done this way too, and every fall load up on pumpkins.

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    1. Yes, I've had pumpkin seeds toasted, too. They are good, but I still think sunflower seeds are my favorite.

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  11. Great post. I had sunflowers last year but left the seeds for the birds as I didn't really know what I needed to do to clean and eat them.

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    1. I bet the birds loved you for that! :)

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  12. Love the first photo of your awesome sunflowers! There's something magical about them. I think their seeds are delicious as well. Thanks for sharing, Holley. :-)

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    1. They were quite the spectacle growing so tall! They are a little magical!

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  13. We don't normally see those big sunflowers here, but only the short ones. Maybe they want the temperature cooler. But i love eating them too from the supermarket. Sometimes i plant a few of them from the bird seeds mix. I love eating them raw not cooked, just like a bird. Your photos are lovely, i love most those heads looking like honeycombs.

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    1. I think these sunflowers love the heat. I planted some smaller ones, too, and they are very fun, but not as impressive as the big ones.

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  14. I love sunflowers! And I didn't grow any this year. I enjoyed seeing yours. Hope the seeds where yummy.

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    1. The seeds are yummy! Not sure how many I'll get off these heads, but maybe enough for a few months of happy snacking!

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  15. Great sunflower pics. I was just talking about planting sunflowers this weekend. I was wondering if it was too late. Maybe a little something to do this weekend.

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    1. I hope you plant them, and that they turn out wonderfully!

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  16. I never thought of using the seeds as food for me! I usually leave them in the garden and let the birds feast on them, but if I had as many as you, I woud definitely try that recipe!

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    1. I bet the birds love that. I grew these specifically for us to eat, though! I didn't want to share with the birds! :O

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  17. Wow! I love sunflowers! I can't wait to grow them again. Unfortunately, my seed stash was ransacked my a herd of mice - all my seeds are eaten up! :-( I hope to get a few more seeds from my mother-in-law!

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    1. Oh NO!!!! I would be very upset if the mice got into my seed stash! :( Glad your mother-in-law can supply you with some more.

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  18. Good going, Holley. They have to be one of the most satisfying annuals to grow - what with their timber-like stems. Mine are paltry in comparison (I'm blaming our lousy summer)!! Dave

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    1. I did enjoy growing them. I'm already looking forward to growing them again next year!

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  19. They look stunning, I love the size and colour they provide in a garden. I wish I had enough "sunny spots" for a bunch of these.

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    1. I have just fallen in love with these big flowers this year. I hope I have a spot for them in my garden every year!

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