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Here are some sunflower questions and answers from our email and some sunflower links.

Tips for harvesting your sunflower seeds, ripeness taste test

Tips for storing your sunflower seeds

Tips for roasting your seeds

Sunflower history

Wed, 25 Aug 1999 From Linda Childs


I have never emailed any thing before. I need to know when you cut the heads off your sunflowers to dry them. I don't have to many. We got the seeds at a gas station for filling up the car with gas, so I just threw the seeds in the ground. And they grew like crazy. Everyone who goes past my house say how nice it is to see the 7 feet of sunflowers in the yard.



Use the taste test to see when the seeds are ripe, then cut the whole flower head and take it to a protected place to hang to dry. My neighbors tried drying theirs tied to a trellis in the yard and the squirrels got most of the seeds. A screened porch would be ideal. If the birds and squirrels are after the seeds before they get ripe, tie nylon netting over the flower heads to protect them.

-Nancy Schimmel

Hi, I read some of the letters sent to you from people asking you when to pick the sun flower head off, I still don't know when to do it, the taste test is one way but what is the seed supposed to taste like? As you can tell this my first time at growing them. Thanks.

The seed should pretty well fill the shell and be a bit hard and oily, not green. Without buying some raw sunflower seed at a natural foods store or pet store (birds like them) I don't know how you can find out exactly how they should taste--you can buy a little package of them where snacks are sold to see how they should look inside, but they would be roasted, so the taste would be different. The internet does have its limitations!


Here in Oklahoma, sunflowers really thrive - and so do the critters that love to eat the seeds. Between the bugs and the birds, I seldom get more than just enough to plant for next year. When I pick seed heads that look intact, and store them for winter, I later find them covered with sawdusty "frass" (bug droppings) with every seed burrowed out. So I hope your material will include suggestions for non-toxic ways to set aside a share of seeds for people, and to preserve them until New Year's Day. I need the advice!

-Fran Stallings, storyteller

A woman at the y2k conference in Oakland suggested putting grain in the freezer for two weeks to kill bugs before storing it. Seems like this ought to work for seeds too.

My problem was squirrels. I had planted the sunflowers in front of a brick wall the squirrels like to use as a highway. Before the seeds were ripe, the squirrels jumped from the wall, dive-bombed the flower heads and broke them off. So I didn't have any to try to store. This year I'm looking for a clear sunny place that is not next to a wall or fence. Or tree.

-Nancy Schimmel

R.Mcgee forwarded us this info from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Thanks, R.


Sunflower and pumpkin seeds may be roasted with or without a pretreatment that salts the seed inside the shell. For salted seeds, wash seeds and put in a salt water solution. Let stand overnight. To make the salt water solution, dissolve two to three tablespoons salt in one quart of hot water. After soaking, drain seeds and pat dry with paper towels. If you don't want salted seeds, skip this step.

Spread seeds evenly on baking sheets. Roast in a 300 degree oven. Small seeds will be ready in 20 to 25 minutes. Sunflower seeds may take 30 to 40 minutes, especially if soaked before roasting. Stir seeds frequently while roasting. When roasted, let seeds cool. Store in airtight containers.

For buttered seeds, toss warm seed with melted butter after removing from oven. Use about one teaspoon butter for each cup of seeds. Other spices, such as onion powder, garlic powder or chili powder, may be added at this time or before roasting.

"Unhulled kernels have a twelve-month shelf life, but hulled, toasted kernels will only last a few months and should be kept in the refrigerator." From Flores, Barbara. The Great Sunflower Book. Ten Speed Press, 1997