How to Harvest and Prepare Sunflower Seeds


orange sunflowerNot only a stunning plant, sunflowers produce delicious and healthy seeds packed with calcium. These seeds are perfect for snacks and the birds love them!

A sunflower head is ready for harvest when the leaves on the back have begun to turn brown. In order to protect the seeds before harvest you can cover the flowers with a light fabric such as cheesecloth. Secure this covering with a string or rubber band. It's extremely important to remove the head at the right time if they are not covered.  If you wait too long, large quantities of seeds will be lost as they fall off when they dry. Another option for protecting the seeds from bugs and birds is to remove the head early and allow it to dry indoors.

Once a sunflower is ready, remove the head using scissors or a knife, leaving at least four inches of the stem attached. Over a large bowl, use your fingers or a fork to pry the seeds from the head. After all the seeds have been removed, you may choose eat them raw or soak them in saltwater. This will expand the seeds and add extra flavor. This process can be done by either boiling the seeds in salt water for two hours, or by allowing the seeds to soak overnight. The recommended amount of salt is about 1/8 to 1/4 cup for each quart.

Once the seeds have soaked, drain off the salt water using a strainer. Next, spread out the seeds on a few layers of paper towels or clean washcloth. Allow the seeds a few hours to completely dry before roasting.

When the seeds are dry, spread them evenly on a cookie sheet and bake them at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes. After baking, put the seeds in a bowl and add one teaspoon of butter for each cup of seeds. Season with salt, if desired.

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