Sunflowers are the ultimate garden accessory. Bright, happy sentinels, they come in knee high to giant varieties, in icy pale white to egg yolk yellow to blazing sunset red colors. With a little water, average soil and lots of sun, they rarely disappoint. While the outer petals of the flower are the show stoppers, the hard working parts of the plant are the tiny florets in the center that ultimately form the seeds. For the mystic science connection, consider that the spiral patterns formed by the seeds are due to their arrangement in the “golden angle” (137.5°) next to one another, in which the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. (Thank you Wikipedia.)
And they’re edible! But have you ever really harvested the seeds? Mine usually go to the birds or the squirrels, which is great for the wildlife, but I think I’ve been missing out. Last year I planted a whole row of mammoth giant sunflowers. The birds had a good year. Many of the seeds replanted themselves this spring on their own, and I had one beautiful specimen make it in the corner of my garden. As luck would have it, I was harvesting my garden this evening when I noticed that the heavy nodding head had dropped all it’s flower petals and was loaded with fat seeds. I felt a little bad about cutting down the sunflower, but it was only a matter of time before the rain rotted it and the varmints took it down.
After I removed the little florets (which taste rather good in a nutty, sunflowery kind of way), the seeds came out of the seed head pretty easily. I proceeded to removed them all by running my thumbs over the seed surface. It took about 15 minutes and produced a whole sheet pan-worth of seeds.
After shaking out the stray chaff and florets, I put the sheet pan of seeds in a 170 degree oven for two hours, then turned off the oven and left them over night. I didn’t want to toast them yet, just make sure they were good and dry. If they aren’t good by morning, I’ll bake them a little longer. Now I can introduce my daughter to the joys of cracking sunflower seeds!