However, we did deviate from the previous years norm and try a new variety called Mongolian Giant that are best known for their extraordinarily large seeds. With heads that are supposed to reach 18" across and seeds around 1.5", ours averaged about 10-14" across with some seeds almost as big as was suggested. The plants, though somewhat smaller than the giant volunteers, differed in that they had extremely uniform heads that allowed for much easier processing. Mongolian seeds themselves also seem to be a little more user friendly in that their size and elongated shape are an advantage when shelling.
The flavor being superb, I am considering growing only this variety next season, my dilemma being whether or not I should buy pure seed or rely on my own that quite possibly crossed with the other flowers. Sunflowers are insect pollinated and have a very heavy pollen that is not easily carried long distances, so perhaps the 50 or so feet of separation between the two varieties was enough...I really don't know.
As you can see, there is quite a difference in size between the Mongolian and volunteer seeds
As soon as the heads begin to yellow in the back and the now darkened seeds appear to be fully developed we cut the plants down and let the seedy heads dry in our greenhouse for a couple weeks making the removal of seed less difficult. They are not left to lie around for too long as our humid fall weather invariably causes the heads to rot from behind eventually infecting the seeds. Once the seeds are removed we finish the drying process next to our wood or pellet stove because the unshelled seeds also have a propensity to become moldy if they are not cured properly in a warm dry environment.
Tip - if your seed shells get a little moldy due to humidity they can be washed in warm water and strained before drying. I have done this and it works great, no need to waste good sunflower seeds.
Heads left to dry in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks before extracting the seeds
Removing the seeds and filling our bins...a slow arduous task to say the least:)
Drawn to the sun as in a hypnotic trance these colossal flowers provide us with a tremendous amount of health-giving seed. Ironically, this gift is not without it's drawbacks. A nightly ritual involves the laborious task of shelling a couple handfuls of seed that are tossed into salads providing us with an abundance of nutritional benefits. Considering the time consuming nature of this chore we have started experimenting with grinding the seeds, shell and all, in our little hand powered grain mill and adding the powder to either salads or morning fruit smoothies. A kind soul recently sent me some interesting pictures showing a homemade huller in operation and I may have to further explore the possibility of making my own one day.
Not only are these sustentative seeds a great source of protein and numerous other beneficial nutrients but also contain trace amounts of "natural" fluorine that can help one resist tooth decay, making them an excellent snack. I found the below highlighted article to be rather interesting in that it helps explain why these seeds are not just for the birds.