There are a lot of reasons to grow sunflowers and with so many varieties to choose from there’s really no reason not to grow them if you have the space. Firstly, many people grow them simply because they look pretty in the summer. It’s a great way to add some character to your yard. Secondly, some people grow them for the wildlife that they can bring. Once birds and squirrels discover the flowers, they will do their best to get to all the seeds after the flowers begin to fade in late summer.
Thirdly and most importantly for me, sunflowers are grown for the seeds themselves. I’m actually growing two varieties. One variety is for me to eat and the other (a much smaller seed) is for the chickens this winter. Sunflower seeds will give our chickens much needed protein in the cold months when they are hard pressed to find a good meal outside of feed we give them. The variety of sunflower that I prefer for eating is an heirloom mammoth flower. It is grown for seed consumption by people. The seeds are plump and large and great for snacking.
So how do you harvest and eat sunflowers? Is it complicated? No, in fact it’s pretty easy. Below is our video of harvesting and then roasting the seeds. We go through the details of harvesting and getting these seeds ready to eat. These turned out to be a wonderful salty snack that we will enjoy this winter.
I would love to be able to grow bunch of seeds dedicated to producing sunflower oil. However, the big problem is the amount of seeds it takes to make a substantial amount of oil. Most home oil extractors are hand cranked and really are not efficient to produce much oil. Additionally, large amounts of sunflower seeds harvested for oil are gathered with a combine machine in large fields. It would be cheaper and less work to just purchase a 50lb bag of bird sunflower seed and run it through a machine like you have below. This is a neat video! Notice how little oil they got out of a full 50lb bag.
Now the machine like the one above is probably pretty expensive. But with the high cost of cold pressed sunflower oil, how long would it take to recoup the costs?
So go out there and grow some sunflowers!