Sunflowers are gorgeous this time of year. New varieties feature colors such as gold, white, burgundy and bronze. While most sunflowers grow tall, some new varieties are short and bushy. Sunbelieveable fits well in containers with its bushy growth and produces hundreds of small, yellow flowers all summer.
Sunflowers are also edible. Just ask the birds and squirrels. We can enjoy them, too. We just have to be a little smarter than the animals.
The best edible seeds come from the large flower head varieties such as Russian Mammoth, but other varieties can be saved as well. Watch the flower heads this time of year. If birds are showing an interest, cover the sunflower head with panty hose or a paper bag to protect it.
When the back of the sunflower turns yellow and the seeds darken, it's time to harvest. When ripe, cut the head leaving a 2- to 4-feet branch stub and store it in a well-ventilated shed, garage or room to dry.
Rub the sunflower head with a glove to remove the drying seeds. Once collected, wash the seeds and remove flower chaff. Lay them out in a single layer on a drying rack in a well-ventilated, bright area to dry. After drying, store in glass jars for roasting and eating.
Another way to eat sunflower heads is to harvest them before they open. Harvest small sunflower heads just before they start to show yellow color. Steam and eat them as you would a globe artichoke. The flavor is a bit like an artichoke and a bit like a sunflower. It will amaze your guests.