Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sunflower Seeds

Speaking of seeds, how about some sunflower seeds? Sunflowers are my all time favorite thing to grow. They are easy, hardy, and there really isn't anything quite like the look of a gigantic sunny yellow flower towering over your vegetable patch to bring a smile to your face. Plus, after they get all brown and shriveled up, there is a treasure trove of delicious (and nutritious!) seeds inside of them to be eaten. Oh, and the dried up sunflower stalks make excellent ninja swords.

Since I actually planted my sunflowers in the spring this year, they blossomed at the same time all my other vegetables blossomed, so I think the bees they attracted really boosted pollination in my garden. As soon as those huge flowers opened up they were absolutely swarmed with bees (we're hoping they are the bees from my husband's new bee hive... more on that later).

If you grew your own sunflowers this year, here is how to tell when the seeds are ready to be harvested. Once the petals are gone and the back of the flower turns yellow, like this:

you can cut the flower head off - leave about 12 inches or so of stem. If your flower is 8 feet tall, be careful how you cut it because that thing is dang heavy and could hurt if it came crashing down on top of your head. Hypothetically speaking. Anywho, the seeds are not quite ready to be removed from the flower at this point, so if you have nice dry weather and can keep the birds away from your seeds, you could opt not to cut off the flower head and allow the seeds to cure in the garden. Last year I did that and a couple unexpected rains got the seeds wet which resulted in mold, so this year I cut them and brought them in. Hang your cut flower somewhere warmish and dry - I have one in the food pantry and three in the barn. Once the back of the flower turns brown, you are ready to harvest your seeds. They should come out pretty easily, but you will make a mess, so it's best to do that part outside.

I plan on using these tips to roast our own seeds - looks easy enough. Of course I'll save a few to plant for next year too.

So here's my quick list of why you should plant sunflowers in your garden next year:

1.) They are super easy to grow - just poke in a seed, water it and watch it grow.

2.) They don't require much space. Yes, they are tall, but not at all wide. I have a friend who lives in a tiny apartment and she grew a gigantic sunflower in a pot on her tiny outside porch. They fit nicely amongst your vegetables.

3.) They will make you smile.

4.) They will make your neighbors smile.

5.) You get approximately a bazillion seeds from one gigantic sunflower. That's a pretty high yield on your investment of one seed and some water.

6.) Sunflower seeds help lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, are very high in protein and amino acids. They also contain high levels of anti-oxidant, B vitamins, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium.

7.) They attract pollinators to your garden which will give you hight vegetable yields.

8.) Think of all the ninja swords you could make out of one 8 foot long sunflower stalk. Or you could skip the cutting and just make a javelin. The possibilities are endless.

9.) Cheese. That's right. You can make cheese out of them. And anything that can be made into cheese simply must be grown.

And now I will step off my sunflower soapbox. :)

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