A non-profit initiative of the Permaculture Education Institute & Morag Gamble

Bloomin’ Marvellous

by | December 30, 2020 | Permayouth

There are about 70 species of sunflowers.Their genus name is Helianthus (which comes from the Greek words for “sun” and “flower”). Environmental scientists call sunflowers hyperaccumulators – plants that have the ability to take up high concentrations of toxic materials in their tissues.

Sunflowers are also a promoter of mycorrhizal fungi which is the foundation block of building organic carbon in the soil. New research now suggests that sunflowers might be as good for the environment as they are pretty to look at.

Sunflowers can do more than just putting on a pretty show in your garden, they are an entirely edible plant. How cool is that? Entirely edible!

You can eat the sprout to root, leaf to stalk and make everything from a healthy snack to salads and tea. Sunflower shoots can be used in the same way you might use alfalfa or soybean sprouts.

Sunflower sprouts have a taste somewhat similar to sunflower seeds which has a slight nuttiness but with more of a fresh, plant-like flavour. This adds an unexpected element to salads and sandwiches.

Sunflower stalks make great snacks, too. With a satisfying crunch and a taste comparable to celery, the stalks of young sunflowers can be added to a salad, eaten raw with hummus or my favourite – eaten with peanut butter.

Sunflower leaves can be used as greens for a salad, boiled in the same way you might cook spinach, or even baked like kale chips. The leaves can also be steeped to make tea. While sunflower petals might make for pretty garnishes, they can actually be used in salads where they add more than just a dash of colour.

sunflower is ready to have its seeds eaten when the disk flowers on the back of the plant have turned from green to yellow. While sunflower seeds are often sold in stores, it’s easy to make your own. You can eat them raw, or soak them overnight in salted water and then roasted at 120-150℃ for several hours.

Sunflowers are a great choice for planting to attract birds to your garden. The King Parrots in my garden flock in to enjoy the tasty seeds as they mature in the flower heads. Such a special treat to have such beautiful birds about while I while away the hours gardening.

Growing sunflowers is easy as long as you remember that they were named for their love of sunshine. Choose a sheltered location that gets full sun all day long. You will enjoy success with just about any soil that does not retain standing water as poor drainage can stunt their growth. To promote vigorous growth and large healthy seeds add compost, manure and mulch to the soil while preparing the bed.

Keep in mind that sunflowers need at least two plants for cross-pollination or they will not produce seed. Sow seeds in a 2.5 cm furrow, placing them about 15 cm apart and cover lightly.

I hope you and the native birds get as much pleasure from growing sunflowers as I do!

– By Eve Ballard

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