A sunflower’s dazzling bloom
Sunflowers produce luminous blooms at staggering heights that delight gardeners and onlookers throughout the warm summer season. The sunflower is listed as one of the leading cash crops in the United States, and people around the world have cultivated high-growing heliotropes for use in a multitude of products for thousands of years. Does this Spark an idea?
The Makeup of a Sunflower
The sunflower is actually a head composed of many little flowers (florets) crowded onto a single stem. The central florets produce sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds have been used in cultivation to produce oils, animal feed, biodiesel fuel, paints and dyes and even medicine.
Sunflower Seed Consumption
Sunflower seeds are sold for consumption either whole or shelled.
Although diverse in their usage, sunflower seeds also provide a healthy high-energy treat popular in vending machines and at baseball games. Sunflower seeds sold for snacking come from confectionery sunflowers. The seeds, or fruit, produced for consumption are longer than ordinary varieties and carry a black (or black and white) hull. They are commonly roasted and salted, sold as kernels or in shell seeds. Sunflower seeds of smaller grade become fodder for animal feed and other products.
Growing Sunflower Seeds Sold as Food
Some stores — especially garden stores — sell sunflower seeds in their raw form for sprouting and therefore planting. Raw seeds commercially produced as food stock can yield sunflowers. Seeds that are roasted and salted, however, cannot grow into sunflowers. Use unroasted seeds (kernels or in-shell seeds) to maximize your chances of getting the seed to germinate. Avoid seeds that are limp instead of hard and firm, are yellowish or smell rancid, as these have reached an age where they will no longer sprout.
Best Conditions for Growing Sunflowers
Sparrow with sunflower seed
Although there’s no guarantee that planting raw sunflower seeds marketed as food will result in a flower, you can test the seeds by trying to get a few to germinate between two damp paper towels. Seeds that sprout after a few days will grow. Sunflowers grow best when given full sun, moist, well-drained soil, with seeds planted about an inch (2.5 cm) deep. The sunflower’s popularity as a food source makes them a prime target for wildlife, and they might be harvested by birds and other creatures for their precious fruit once they have reached mature height.