Harvesting Mammoth Sunflowers

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The mammoth sunflower. We grew our first this year and had a blast. The kids loved it so much that we’ve decided to do our best to make a tradition out of it every single year from here on out. It was a joy to see them grow taller and taller, thicker and thicker at the base until they were over ten feet tall and hovering above us. Amazing to see something so huge come from one tiny little seed.

I did not know this previous to growing these ourselves, but the brown center of the sunflower (see photo above) is actually made up of hundreds of tiny little brown flowers. This is where the bees come to pollinate, but really I should say where the bees love to hang out. All day. When our sunflowers were in full bloom, they were so massive that at any given moment there were at least four or five bees hovering and working their magic.

(Looking for more self reliant and abundant gardening? Check out:

LENTIL SPROUTS FOR CHICKENS (AND YOUR FAMILY) – A PROTEIN PACKED WINTER TREAT

UTILIZING THE POWER OF FALL LEAVES IN THE GARDEN)

Every single one of those small brown flowers will eventually become their own seed. The flowers will close up and dry out. Below those dried flowers, the seeds will start to develop. Once those seeds develop the mammoth sunflower heads droop from the weight of deliciousness.

Tiny, dried up brown flowers from the mammoth sunflower.

Our four year old rightly observed that, “Mom, it looks like some kind of alien!” I had to agree. Alex and I had a good laugh- decided they did look a bit like a certain creature from “Stranger Things”- if you’re familiar.

Come September or so, the pedals will be dried up, some of the dried flowers will start to fall off, and the back part of the flower will start to turn a yellow color, with tiny hints of black. This is when you are ready to harvest. For our largest sunflower the trunk was at least four inches in diameter. We literally cut it down with a large handheld saw. It felt like we were cutting down a tree. The result is pictured below.

Another way to tell if you’re ready to harvest is if you see any birds swooping in on the seeds for a delicious morsel. As you can see below there are seeds missing from our largest sunflower. We cut it down in the morning and left it outside on our patio table until we could harvest seeds that evening. During that short time we had a sparrow snatching up seeds and flying off with them. We saw it with our own eyes, had a good laugh and the kids got some exercise chasing it away while giggling. The best part was that the sparrow just kept coming back for more despite their efforts.

Harvested mammoth sunflower heads – Ready to harvest seeds.
Close up of our largest mammoth sunflower grown.

Next step is to simply remove all of the dried flowers. These will come off easily by brushing them off with your hands, as if you were brushing dirt from your jeans. It’s one of those satisfying, therapeutic things, and I wish I could describe the smell of those delicious flowers and seeds. It just smells like September with the change in season and smell of earth and natural fragrance. I can smell it now as I’m typing this.

All flowers removed from the tops of the seeds.

Next is the fun and social part. Many little hands make for lots of giggles and fine motor skills put to the test. We had a fantastic time as a family meticulously removing the seeds. Ours were not very pointy or sharp like I’ve read they could be, so we lucked out and the little people were loving it. To make the process faster you can also crack the head of it to loosen up a bunch of seeds.

Many hands make light work.
One finished!

We had a beautiful fall evening and lots of laughs. Once we finished, we brought them inside to prep and then bake. We decided on soaking them in a salt mixture and baking. Delicious!

Mmmmm the smell of roasted seeds in your own home.

(Looking for more self reliant and abundant gardening? Check out:

LENTIL SPROUTS FOR CHICKENS (AND YOUR FAMILY) – A PROTEIN PACKED WINTER TREAT

UTILIZING THE POWER OF FALL LEAVES IN THE GARDEN)

Thanks for reading, please let us know how your sunflowers have done. We would love to hear from you. If you like what you see here at Herbs, Birds & the Bees please subscribe and grow with us! Looking forward to next time!

-Rachel

Herbs, Birds & the Bees

Less Dependence, More Abundance

 

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