My Mammoth Sunflowers grew beautifully this year. Planted in May, these graceful giants grew to about ten feet tall. I marvelled as the seeds quickly germinated and grew in quick spurts after every copious Spring rain shower. Their heliotropic nature is interesting to study. As the plant grows, the top always follows the sun and once there is a bud, this heliotropic movement is more noticeable. To me, Sunflowers are happy plants, following the sun across the horizon only to turn back and face east by sunrise. As soon as the yellow petals open, the flower remains facing east.
But it seems the plant only smiles for about five days once the petals have reached their climax by early August and then the head slowly bows. A sad sight for sure. Then I remember that left alone the plant will work one last miracle; the seeds will mature. Once the back of the sunflower head is brown, mine was a tannish yellow, the head can be removed and the seeds harvested for roasting. Try late September, early October, depending on your zone. While living in Germany, I would see people leaving the Sunflower fields with the ripe seed heads, only to set them on the kitchen table to nibble from throughout the day.
My daughter and I spent about an hour harvesting the seeds being sure to only pick the plump ones. Her tiny fingers were perfect for the job. She also thought it would be a good idea to sing sunshine songs. So we sang “You Are My Sunshine” over and over. Our fingers got pinched a few times with the tiny barbs between the seeds and the flower gives off a strong medicinal but not offensive aroma, especially if you get the sap from the stem on your hands.
HOW TO ROAST SUNFLOWER SEEDS
After rinsing the seeds 5 times then spinning them dry in my salad spinner, I decided to roast them in my iron skillet. I cooked them over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes with about 5 good pinches of Kosher salt. I knew they were done when they turned a grayish white color and sounded like pebbles in the pan. They were perfectly crisp and salted. I got 6.2 ounces of seeds from one flower head, not a bad harvest.
P.S.- Prior to roasting the seeds, I put aside 7 for next year’s planting.