Mistakes to Avoid When Harvesting and Roasting Sunflower Seeds
Haste Makes a Mess of Things
Horrors! This is the fully illustrated NOT-TO-DO guide for a neophyte’s foray into sunflower food production. Whether for birds or humans, you want seeds which look like the ones you formerly purchased at the grocery or the feed store. Now that you are a sunflower gardener, do not be impatient or cut corners. Here is what may happen….
Mistake Number One
It is too early to cut this flower head (see above photo). The petals are still gloriously waving like a corona around the flower. Wait until almost all petals off.
Mistake Number Two
This one is still too early to cut, kind of… The general wisdom is that the back of the flower’s seed disk (called the calyx?) should be all yellow-brown and drying out. The lovely and lively green as illustrated means the seeds are not mature, meaning not tasty and good for eating.
Mistake Number Three
Picking a sunflower with totally white colored seeds rather than black stripes on white means the seeds are not mature.
When to Cut the Flower?
I will cut my seed heads a little on the early side because the birds in my neighborhood organize themselves marvelously, with 24/7 surveillance on the progress of the seed maturation. If I wait until the back of the flower is the proper shade of drying out, there will be no seeds left on the reverse side. Yes, one can cover up the flower head with a cheesecloth or paper bag to prevent fly-by avian diners from taking the seeds before the human gardeners get them. But, I do not want to be bothered. So, maybe that should be illustrated by mistake number 4.
Mistake Number Four
Forgetting to put bags over the flower heads.
All That Nurturing Down the Drain
Mistake Number Five
Flower heads piled on top of each other to dry inside the garage, basement, or house prevent moisture from evaporating. Then all the flowers can become moldy. EEyuck!
Mistake Number Six
If you are shelling the sunflower seeds before you roast them (which is an acceptable way to prepare them), trying to do it before the seeds are dry enough is another mistake. The insides are like squishy white potato.
Mistake Number Seven
Cooking on too high a temperature. Whether you are roasting shelled or unshelled seeds, the common wisdom is to cook them at 300 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes.
Pictures Worth Thousands of Warning Words
I hope these photos frightened you enough to convince you follow all the wisdom contained in blogs on how to correctly harvest and roast sunflower seeds. After bestowing all the love a gardener pours into a crop of flowers, you deserve the bounty of seeds either for yourself or your bird friends. When you learn the specifics of sunflower harvesting, you will never need to see images like these in your own yard.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Maren Elizabeth Morgan