How To Harvest Sunflower Seeds

How to harvest Sunflower Seeds

While perusing my parent’s garden last weekend, I discovered that their sunflowers were (just) ready to be harvested!

They could have gone another week or so, but the birds would have definitely taken a toll. (Plus I just wanted to go ahead and harvest them while I was there. ๐Ÿ™‚ )ย 

So, I chose a couple sunflowers to de-seed, and I will walk you through the process with me here.

First, let’s talk about when to pick the sunflowers.


  1. The heads droop down to face the ground
  2. The leaves on the back are starting to turn brown, or are completely brown. (Mine are obviously just starting to turn here)
  3. The seeds are fully formed

You can also pick them once the seeds are formed, but the leaves haven’t turned, and let them finish drying inside. This prevents birds and squirrels from stealing your precious sunflower seeds! The more dry they are, the easier they will be to remove from the flower head.

All you need to harvest sunflower seeds is a little table to work on, a bowl to put the seeds in, and a friend to keep you company while you work.

How to harvest sunflower seeds

See all the mini yellow flowers at the end of each seed? These are just loosely sitting on there, so brush them off before you remove the seeds.

To get the sunflower seeds out of the flower head, use your thumbs to rub them back and forth a couple of times to loosen them, then you can simply pick the seeds out with your fingers.

How to harvest sunflower seeds

Here is our entire set up, including the little bowl of tomatoes for snacking!

How to harvest sunflower seeds

We quickly overflowed this little bowl, and had to move on to a bigger one!

How to harvest sunflower seeds

Once the seeds are completely removed from the flower head, you have a few different options for preserving them.

  1. Spread the sunflower seeds out on towels to completely air dry- this gives you a plain, raw sunflower seed.
  2. Boil them in salt water 15 minutes (2 Tablespoons of sea salt, to 1 quart of water) then roast on trays at 350 degrees.
  3. Soak in salt water (2 Tablespoons of sea salt, to 1 quart of water)ย 8-10 hours, then dry on trays with your oven on it’s lowest temperature setting. Usually 150-170. ย *Optimal for nutritional benefits*

You can also use a dehydrator on a high setting, but it takes quite a bit longer to dry the seeds.

How to harvest sunflower seeds

So,ย that’s how to harvest sunflower seeds!

It’s pretty crazy that those pretty flowers produce such a large amount of edible seeds! Who says beauty and utility can’t coincide. ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you like to eat your sunflower seeds?

ย ย 
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18 responses to “How To Harvest Sunflower Seeds”

  1. laura mccubbin says:

    How long do you boil them for? I have about 12-14 big sunflowers to harvest! thanks

  2. Shaie says:

    There’s actually another way that’s very easy that I had seen done several years ago by a sweet old lady. She put a mesh hair net over the flower and it kept the birds away from the seeds, letting them fall when they were ripe and ready. There’s was no picking necessary, just gathering what had fallen into the hair net.

  3. Christy says:

    I clicked on your page because I wondered if, as well as how to harvest, you might have hints on how to keep the birds out. But it sounds like you still have problems with that too.

    I harvested sunflowers once, and really, really appreciated the reminder of how much work certain things represent. The amount of time, space (in the garden) and work that goes into a handful of sunflower seeds is so humbling.

  4. JES says:

    Thanks for sharing your informative posts on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a lovely week!

  5. Matt says:

    We didn’t have problems with birds (we actually welcome the goldfinches). We lost our entire harvest to squirrels. In about 3-4 days they tore off every sunflower head and carried them all away. It happened during the week when I wasn’t paying close attention to the garden because of work and after school events. When the weekend came and I got back to the garden, they were all gone. Interestingly enough, our garden is in the front yard and we never have squirrels in the front yard. Now they’re everywhere in the front yard. That probably means I’ll find sunflowers growing all around my lawn next spring!

    • Angi says:

      Aw man, too bad! Sorry the squirrels stole your harvest! ๐Ÿ™ Maybe cut and bring them inside a little early next year? I hate it when I lose an entire harvest of something I planted. On the up-side, it would be pretty funny to see your lawn dotted with sunflowers next year!

  6. Great information! Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog hop, Iโ€™ll be featuring you, so please feel free to grab my Featured Button! Have a great week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chickยฎ

    • Angi says:

      Thanks Kathy! I just shared again this week. Thanks so much for hosting the Clever Chicks blog hop, and for featuring me this week!

  7. I planted and grew sunflowers this year but the squirrels stole them before they were even ripe! Next year I am going to try the hair net. Thanks for how to preserve, I wasn’t sure what to do next but now I do ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Angi says:

      You are totally welcome! Sorry, the squirrels stole your harvest! ๐Ÿ™ Maybe give the hair net a try, or cut them, and bring them indoors to finish drying…

  8. Diane Serna says:

    How do you start a sunflower plant?

  9. Tanya says:

    You do steps 2 and 3? Of 2 or 3? Sorry just a bit confused, thanks!

  10. Hilary says:

    Lovely post! How long should I roast them in the oven?

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