For many of us, the thought of sunflowers evokes childhood memories of growing plants that would eventually tower over us, with some that can grow up to 16 feet tall. When sunflowers are planted in full sun, the seeds germinate, thrive, and bear bright and cheerful blooms that resemble sunshine. If you’re a sunflower lover, consider harvesting their seeds before you toss them out. Harvesting sunflower seeds is an exciting summer and autumn activity, with a fairly simple process. Keep reading to learn how to harvest sunflower seeds in five easy steps.
How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds
Step 1: Select & Cut The Sunflowers
The harvesting process begins with selecting cut sunflowers. Gently uproot the plant from the ground and cut about an inch off the bottom on the stem. Or, skip this step by ordering pre-cut, vase-ready sunflowers. We can help you with the latter option here.
Step 2: Remove The Water Supply
When you’re ready to harvest the seeds from your sunflowers, prepare them by removing them from their water supply. They can be left to air dry in a vase, but chances are you won’t want to display them when they’re less than their best.
Step 3: Dehydrate The Flowers
Find a dry place to hang your sunflowers upside down, so they can dehydrate. If you choose to place your flowers outdoors, cover them with a breathable and protective material, such as produce netting, cheesecloth, or a paper bag. This will protect your sunflowers from nature as they dehydrate. After all, birds and other critters won’t realize that you’re saving seeds, and they’ll start to snack on the tasty treats.
Step 4: Prepare To Extract
As the petals wilt and fall off, it is normal for the underside of the blooms to start to brown. Your sunflower heads should dry out completely so that you can extract the seeds. They are ready once the seeds are plump and start to loosen from the flower head.
Step 5: Extract Your Seeds
Once the seeds are ripe for harvesting, prep an area with a bowl or tray to catch the seeds, and lightly brush the sunflower heads. Let the seeds fall onto your prepped surface, and remove any stubborn ones with pliers, tweezers or tongs. Quickly rinse and thoroughly dry your seeds, and then store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.
What to Do with Harvested Sunflower Seeds
You might feel quite domestic after harvesting your seeds. It’s quite a sense of accomplishment! There are several things you can do with them--that include (and go beyond) planting.
- Roast and eat them. If you want a yummy treat, soak, season, and roast your seeds for a high-protein snack that’s also rich in Vitamin E and magnesium. There are recipes for making them both in the shell and without (with instructions on how to de-shell your seeds).
- Fill your bird feeder. Just like humans, our fine feathered friends (and squirrels!) enjoy sunflower seeds as a treat. You can either fill your bird feeder with harvested seeds or hang the dried, full blooms for the critters to savor.
- Make suet. Instead of filling your feeder, make and hang handmade suet cakes for your neighborhood birds. Take a peek at this recipe for making enriched suet at home.
- Get crafty. Kids (and crafters) love crafting with just about anything they can get their hands on, including beans, seeds, and dried berries. This sunflower made out of seeds and clothespins is an adorable project that you can create while reminiscing about growing your beautiful blooms.
- Plant your sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds yield sunflowers, and if you want more of the stunning blooms, planting is the way to go. Plant your seeds 1.5” deep and about 6” apart in full sun for best results, and see complete instructions in this article.
Next time you receive a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers, think about all of the possibilities beyond their cheerful beauty. Enjoy the sunny blooms, then get creative and decide what’s next for your harvested sunflower seeds.