throughout the summer – along with the bees! – and when the plants start to fade, they make good biomass for your compost pile. Also, by selecting the appropriate varieties, you can harvest the seeds for snacking, or for making bird feed.
* Sunflower is one of the few crops that originated in the US (most likely in the Southwest).
* Archaeological evidence indicates that Native Americans grew sunflower in Tennessee 4,000+ years ago.
* Following the “discovery” of the Americas, sunflower spread to other parts of the world, with Europe and Russia becoming major producers.
* In 2008, over 2 million acres were devoted to agricultural harvesting of sunflower in the USA.
* The majority of sunflower is grown for vegetable oil production, primarily for human consumption. A small portion is used for birdseed, and even less whole seed is used for human snacking.
* Vegetable oil made from sunflower seeds is lower in saturated fats than most vegetable oils.
* Sunflower seeds provide almost 8% of the world’s vegetable oil production.
* Each sunflower head is actually 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined to a common receptacle.
* If you’re lost, use an “established” Sunflower to determine direction… they always face East! Developing sunflower heads will turn with or “track” the sun, and sunflower heads with maturing seeds will usually be leaning Eastward, but turned downward to the ground.
I collected the above information from University of Tennessee publication SP721, Sunflower: An Alternative Crop for Tennessee Producers. Though primarily written for the commercial grower, it’s definitely a worthwhile read for gardeners wanting to know more about sunflower.
blog entry and photos by Mark Murphy, CMG
The shapes and textures on the back of sunflowers can be as interesting as the front side...