Planting a sunflower garden is great way to add height and color to a lackluster patch in the yard.
Though nice to look at, their seeds also have a wide range of uses. Sunflower seeds can be turned into products that can be used all year around the home.
Sunflowers have been grown for many 1000’s of years, as knowledge of their usefulness spread along with their seed crops. They were commonly used for seeds and oil, as well as for medicine and for their fibers, and are still an essential ingredient in these and many other items.
Sunflower gardens need a space that gets a lot of full sun. They are not as picky about soil conditions, and as long as they have proper water drainage they will normally do well planted outdoors. Be sure to sow them away from other plants in the garden as they tend to shade and tower over what is beneath.
They can be started indoors in containers but can be planted outdoors after all chances of frost have passed. However, the plants are normally sturdy and though they flourish with regular watering they can usually hold up to droughts and cooler temperatures. If the seeds will be eaten or used in recipes, be sure to plant the type that is safe for consumption.
Sunflowers are mostly carefree but birds will devour the seeds, so keep plants trimmed of leaves or nearby branches so that birds can’t perch and feed. Also, perforated or mesh bags can be put over the heads to keep out hungry predators.
They will show when they are ready to be picked as their heads will become heavy and droop. The seeds will also appear brown in color or the back portion of the heads where the seeds are will look yellow.
At harvest time simply cut off the heads and hang them to dry where they will be safe from moisture. The seeds can be stored in sealed glass containers or mason jars for months and will best maintain their flavor if kept refrigerated. Seeds can also be frozen and kept in air tight containers to be used throughout the year.
Sunflower seeds contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals. They are also high in iron, phosphorus and potassium, and on average are composed of about one quarter of protein.
The seeds can be slightly toasted in a skillet for a few minutes until they warm in order to bring out the flavor. They can also be slow roasted in the oven on a baking sheet at a low temperature until they begin to crisp. Before roasting, soak seeds in water overnight, adding salt, mints or herbs to the mix if a flavor is preferred. After draining, they are ready to roast.
Though they don’t need accompaniment, they are perfect for adding to recipes like trail mix, cereals, breads and salads. Their seeds can be used to feed birds and other animals, too.
In addition to the culinary, the oil from sunflowers has lots of healthful properties, making it a good carrier oil to use in homemade beauty treatments.
Sunflower seed oil can be used in many skin and body recipes for gentle and effective moisturizing. For instance, it can be added to homemade skincare methods like oil cleansing and in products like simple to make shea body butter.
The oil also has many around the home uses including as a mild furniture polish (always do a spot test first). Their vibrant petals can also be used to make colorful natural dyes.
Planting a sunflower garden is a good investment that will give back all year long.
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