Some wee little things in Grandma's Afternoons

Monday, November 16, 2015

Harvesting Sunflowers - Tip or Trick

Once upon a time you took pleasure in watching those beautiful big flowers turn their heads toward the afternoon sun, but now it's time to harvest the seeds.

The Big Sunflower above is from our Big's collection of photos
There is no real trick to getting the sunflowers out of the ground and they have a very large root ball attached. So you want to harvest the seeds after you have watched these grow over time. You might not be the only one who wants to harvest, as squirles, birds, and field mice might have beat you to the seed harvest, as these flowers are a favourite of theirs also..
Know when to havest your sunflower seeds
To harvest your sunflowers can be an easy job but knowing when the best time to harvest can be questioning. If you pick too early you might have plenty of seed husks but the seed meat will be too small. If you wait too long your seeds maybe to dry, and waiting too long also gives your other garden friends time to do a little harvesting of their own leaving you with little or nothing.
It is best to harvest sunflowers when the flower petals are dry and weepy and the flower head will be turning from a lush green to a yellow and then brown. You will notice the seeds take on another shape, they almost swell inside and the shell of the seed will be black or black and white. Tip: if the birds and other garden friends start to harvest you can cover your flower head with a net or a paper bag when the petals fall.

Harvest sunflowers when their petals become dry and begin to fall. The green base of the head will turn yellow and eventually brown. Seeds will look plump and the seed coats will be fully black or black and white stripes depending on the variety. If animals or birds are a problem, you can cover the heads with fine netting or paper bags as soon as the petals begin to wilt.

How to harvest your sunflower seeds
If you are like me you try and get ahead of your gardening chores. This harvest is worth waiting for as sunflower seeds can be dried and roasted and enjoyed all Winter long. There is two ways you can harvest your sunflower seeds. First, let the seeds fully ripen while still on the stem and cut the stem about 4 inches below the stem and rub back and forth loosening the seeds from the head. Tip: let the seeds dry completely before storing them. Or the second way is to get the flower when 3/4 of the seeds are fully mature and the cut the stem leaving about a foot, wrap the heads of the flowers in a paper bag and hang the plants in a warm place for 2 to 3 weeks. Trick: make sure the spot you hang them in is dry and well ventalated or your seeds will turn moldy.
The sunflower below is half harvested by my helpful backyard birds.
Notice the flower head is yellow and the seeds are white and that depends on the variety of sunflower.
I find rubbing the yellow fluff almost as hard to resist as bubble wrap.

Time to Roast your fresh harvested sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are a great snack and a favourite to harvest for grandchildren while with grandma on those afternoons. Shell all your seeds and put into a pot with about 1/4 cup of salt and cover with water. Bring them to a boil and just simmer them for one hour. Lay them on paper towel and dry. Or you can roast your sunflower seeds in a 325F oven for 30 minutes then remove from the oven and stir in 1 Tablespoon of butter and your favourite seasoning, my girls almost always pick cinnamon and sugar mix that they can sprinkle on.