Sunflowers are astonishingly beautiful and uplifting, towering over the farm like sentry guards radiating happiness, accumulating and distributing sunshine. They’re also packed with thousands of highly nutritious, edible seeds. Once they start to droop towards the ground, you may have to compete with the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, who climb up them in search of the seeds and break the stems. When the blooms are resting on the ground, like they’re on some floral time-out, they seeds are fair game. You can either wrap the live heads in paper to stop animals from eating them, or you can cut the heads off completely even before they’re ready to harvest.
The seed is the white pellet underneath the yellow face of the bloom (pictured above). They develop a black strip as the flower dies, eventually turning a dusky, dark grey/black (pictured below). They are even delicious like this without any cooking, and packed full of raw nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B-6 and high in potassium and magnesium.
To wrap the live heads:
Cover the head in a brown paper bag and tie securely with string while the bloom is attached to the stem.
Uncover the bloom daily to check the color of the back of the head.
Once the back of the head is brown, the seeds are ready to harvest.
To cut the flower heads early:
Cut the head off a few inches down the stem. Tie the stem with string and hang upside down in a cool dry area for about five days.
Or, cut the head off, leaving very little stem; put in a paper bag face down; fold up the opening and leave in a dry, cool place for a few days.
To eat: you can eat them raw, or soak the seeds in water overnight and then roast them for 30 minutes on 325F.
To save for next year’s spring planting: sprinkle on a paper towel and dry overnight, then store in the fridge.