Seed Saving: Sunflowers

You could call it harvesting and eat all your sunflower seeds or you could call it saving seed and plant the seeds next year.  Either way it’s a pretty easy job to do.  Once the sunflowers are past their prime the back of the head will turn yellow and that is when you should pick them.  You may need to protect the flower heads from the birds before they are ready to harvest.  The birds don’t care if the seeds are perfect for picking or not.  You can do this by putting a paper bag or cheesecloth over the flower head so they can’t get to it.

These that I have drying in the picture were probably picked a little early, but a local farm was selling the flowers for charity and they were only selling the pretty flowers, so this is what I had to work with.  I’m not sure if the seeds are viable at this point or not.  I planted some sunflowers in my garden, but they aren’t ready yet.  If you look closely at the head of the flowers, all you will see is a yellow fuzzy layer which is what is hiding all the seeds.  Let the flowers dry completely and you will notice the yellow turn to brown.  Once this happens, brush it away and you will find your seeds.  Simply rub the seeds out of the flower head.  If they don’t come off easily, let them dry a little more.  This should not take much effort to do.  If you choose to store them, put them in a sealed jar and they should last you a while.  If you choose to eat them, you can salt and roast them first or eat them as you work.  I like to eat them as I go, a little reward for all my hard work (not really).

Because I know that these flowers may have been picked early, I checked their viability before putting them away for storage.  I simply put them in my sprouter as I would if I were going to sprout them to eat and make sure that they did sprout.  If they hadn’t, then there is no point in saving them for next year and you should just go ahead and eat them all.  The ones that you have sprouted you can eat too, just don’t eat the outer shell.  They are actually quite tasty.

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