First, a confession. We only had 1 sunflower live and it did not do a great job (never got over 6′ tall). The seeds were smaller than I would have expected and there were insects on the plant all the time.
To be blunt, I did not expect anything to come from this plant and I had no intention of saving the seed for replanting.
When it died off, which also came early, I was tempted to just knock it over and call it a day. However, I could see a good number of what appeared to be fully developed seeds.
As such, I uprooted it and saved it for harvesting.
When to Harvest Sunflower Seeds:
The sunflowers’ petals will die off and the head itself will droop over. The back of the head is green, but as it dies off it will turn yellow.
This is when you want to harvest the seed head. I believe we waited a little too long, as several of the seeds had a tiny insect hole in them.
I uprooted our flower because I wanted to see the root structure. You just need to keep enough of the stalk to be able to hang the plant someplace to dry.
Drying Sunflower Seeds:
The rule you always hear is to store the seed head in a cool dry place where there is still good air movement. Our laundry room might have been a good place for that, but it never got that far.
I happened to be quiet busy the morning I decided it was time to uproot the flower and simply hung it by our front door. This part of our home happens to stay in the shade.
My laziness continued and the flower simply stayed there hanging by the front door for about two weeks. It was then that Jennifer noticed that 3 of the seeds had fallen from the head. The time for ignoring it had run up!
Salting Sunflower Seeds:
The seeds simply pop right out of the flower head. To work with it, I cut the flower head off right at its’ base. Nothing special to mention about it.
I held the flower head in one hand and used the index finger of my other to coax them out, rotating the head as I went. Within 2 minutes the seeds were all out.
I then took a mixing bowl and added warm water and an ample supply of regular old table salt. I would say it was roughly 1 liter of water to 1/2 cup of salt. Since salt still remained in the bowl, I believe you could lower that amount.
The seeds floated and I did nothing to keep them submerged. Leave them overnight in the brine to absorb the salt.
Roasting Sunflower Seeds:
Preheat your oven to 300F. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Strain the seeds and spread them out in an even layer on the parchment paper.
Place in the oven and roast the seeds. Ours took 40 minutes. We determined that they were done simply by them appearing to be fully dried again.
We did “stir” the seeds around the baking sheet at around 30 minutes.
Storing the Seeds:
Your salted and roasted seeds should store for several months. However, our small harvest will be eaten by the end of the week and are simply being stored in a plastic container.
You could choose to vacuum seal them, store them in mason jars, etc. It could be wise to include a silicon packet if you have them on hand, just in case you missed some moisture while roasting.
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