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. 🙂 )
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.
- The heads droop down to face the ground
- The leaves on the back are starting to turn brown, or are completely brown. (Mine are obviously just starting to turn here)
- 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.
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.
Here is our entire set up, including the little bowl of tomatoes for snacking!
We quickly overflowed this little bowl, and had to move on to a bigger one!
Once the seeds are completely removed from the flower head, you have a few different options for preserving them.
- Spread the sunflower seeds out on towels to completely air dry- this gives you a plain, raw sunflower seed.
- Boil them in salt water 15 minutes (2 Tablespoons of sea salt, to 1 quart of water) then roast on trays at 350 degrees.
- Soak in salt water (2 Tablespoons of sea salt, to 1 quart of water) 8-10 hours, then dry on trays with your oven on it’s lowest temperature setting. Usually 150-170. *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.
So, 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. 🙂