Sunflowers are large cheery plants that brighten up any garden and they can thrive almost anywhere where there is sufficient sun and reasonable soil.
Harvesting Sunflower Seeds
Secure net bags over the heads of the sunflowers to keep the birds from getting the seeds. If the bags are secured tightly around the stem, any seeds that ripened early enough to fall out would still be in the bag instead of on the ground. I'd recommend bagging them, then when they appear to be ripe all the way to the center of the flower, just cut the stem below the bag, turn the whole thing upside down, and shake.
There is another way to dry your sunflowers. When you see the signs of the yellowing of the backside of the sunflower head you simply harvest them right at that point. Cut the heads down leaving about one foot of stem below the head. You can then dry your sunflowers where ever you want to, as long as it is warm and dry with good ventilation to prevent molding. A small shed might be perfect, or even in your house. You may still want to cover the seed heads with paper bags, especially if drying in an outdoor shed! But primarily, as long the sunflowers are kept warm, dry and sheltered, you'll be able to successfully harvest the seeds. Simply run your hand over the sunflower head and the seeds will pop right out.
Planting Sunflower Seeds
Plant them at a depth of 1-3.5" in a sunny area after the last frost. Space seeds depending on the type you are planting.
- Giant sunflowers should be spaced about 3 feet (90 cm) apart in rows that are 4 feet (120 cm) apart.
- Medium sunflowers should be spaced about 2 feet (60 cm) apart in rows that are 3 feet (90 cm) apart.
- Small sunflowers should be space about 1 foot (30 cm) apart in rows that are 3 feet (90 cm) apart.
Salted Sunflower Seeds
- Place water and salt in a saucepan.
- Rinse sunflower seeds and remove any plant or flower head matter.
- Add sunflower seeds to water and salt in pan.
- Bring water to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
- Simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- When done, strain water and seeds through colander and allow seeds to dry on a paper towel.
- Do not rinse.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Spread seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Stir frequently.
- Remove from oven when seeds are slightly browned& fragrant.
- NOTE: for salt free seeds, simply eliminate the first 7 steps and go straight into oven preparation (Step 8).
Chocolate covered Sunflower Seeds
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds (shells removed)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil ( or canola, something neutral)
- Put the sunflower seeds in a bowl, and sprinkle the sugar and cocoa powder over them but don't mix yet.
- Add the oil and stir with a large fork or whisk until the seeds are fully coated with the chocolate-y mixture.
- Spread onto a cookie sheet and bake at 300F for 20-25 minutes or until desired crunchiness is reached (careful not to burn though!).
- Let cool before storing, will keep for about 1-2 weeks.