I love sunflowers. They are so bright, beautiful, colorful and practical.
I admire that, until the flower buds mature, most follow the Sun; looking stalwartly east in the morning and moving their gaze west in the afternoon.
They are easy to grow and they come in many different colors and patterns. Some reach for the heavens with one thick stem putting all of their energy into a single giant flower. Others spread out with many branches inviting you to pick them so that they can “come again.”
Sunflowers make excellent cut flowers. Many times, they do need to be wired in order for their heads to look straight ahead. Getting the wire from a florist, put it right through the thick neck bringing it into the middle then twist both sides down the stem. They generally like a prominent placement if you are going to put them in a mixed bouquet. They definitely have the ability to capture the audience’s attention!
Sunflower seeds contain many nutrients. These include calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. They are very fragile once they have been removed from their shells so always purchase them in the shell or from a refrigerated source. Sunflower oil is one of the few vegetable oils that is fairly stable. I use sunflower oil in my mayonnaise. The truly stable ones come in a dark bottle and are cold-pressed and unrefined. Once opened, the bottle should be refrigerated to avoid rancidity.
I grow sunflowers both for cut flowers and for the chickens. As the seeds mature, I cut the heads off of the plants and, with a gloved hand, I rub the now dry brown “fuzz” off of the seeds. I then place them where they will dry. This includes my oven that has a pilot light and my picnic table when the Sun is on it.
Once the back is truly dry, I place them in bags upstairs. These I give to the chickens when it snows. As they refuse to go outside during these storms, I give them some sunflower heads and a few pumpkins or squashes so that they will have something to peck on besides each other.
Occasionally, a sunflower will act like it’s on steroids. I guess that’s what happened to this one!
Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.
Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer!
Celeste's new book on living lightly on the Earth is due out September 25, 2014.