This year we won the Pass Creek Fall Fair competition for the largest sunflower head. The specimen I cut from our garden just before last weekend’s festivities measured a whopping 18 inches across. Since last weekend, I’ve employed my daughters Eden and Nyssa to remove the seeds from this head, which we completed last night. The total seed yield weighed in at just over a pound (478 grams). These are good eating seeds, so now we will dry them off and roast some of them for eating. The rest, we’ll save for planting next spring, or possibly sell off for aspiring competitors!

Largest Sunflower Head - 2009

If you grew sunflowers this year and want to save the seeds for eating or planting next year, the first step is to harvest, then to dry. Cut the whole flower head off once the back of the head starts to turn yellow, or when the birds start picking the seeds out.

It is important to make sure the seeds are fully dry before you store them.  Partially damp seeds will mildew in a tightly sealed container. Pop the seeds on a tray in a dry warm place, or if you want, store in paper bags. Seeds really only need to be stored in a sealed container if pests are a problem.


If you want to eat the seeds, they are great roasted. To do this:

cover unshelled seeds with salted water. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt per two quarts of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours. Drain and dry on absorbent paper. Seeds may also be soaked overnight in a salt solution. Roast sunflower seeds in a shallow pan at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. After removing from the oven, stir in one teaspoon of melted butter or margarine for every cup of seeds. Cool on an absorbent towel and salt to taste.

via – University of Illinois Extension

Sunflower Butter

Start with raw seeds, and shell them by putting them in a cloth bag or wrapping them in a cotton cloth, then pound (gently!) with the flat side of a hammer, or something similar. Don’t smash them, just crush them. When they’re mostly crushed, pour them into cold water and stir a time or two to let the loosened hulls rise to the top. Skim these off, and stir again, as many times as it takes.

When nothing but sunflower kernels are left, (you may have to pick through them) pour off the water, and spread to dry.

There are various methods of grinding or crushing the seeds, but the easiest is to put them in a food processor and let it do the work. Alternatively, you can use a blender. More labor intensive, but perhaps more appealing, is to use a clean jar or bottle and crush the seeds against the bottom of a bowl. It takes more time, but connoisseurs claim that the butter tastes better when it’s hand made.

If the butter seems dry and clumpy, add a little oil, about a quarter teaspoon, at a time, until you get the right consistency. Keep mixing until the butter is as smooth as you want it. You can add salt or not, but salt will help it keep better. Whether you do or not, store it in the refrigerator.

via –

We grew about 6 different varieties of sunflowers this year, but these are by far the best sized seeds. If you are in Canada, you can get these, and many other great seeds, from West Coast Seeds.


Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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