Harvesting sunflowers isn't particularly difficult, but I remember being puzzled by how (and when) to do it. So here are the facts!
Sunflower leaves and petals are best picked when very young, when they can be used in salads.
Later, the leaves become "fuzzy" and while you can cook them, they're often bitter.
The trick to harvesting sunflower seeds is to cut off the heads of the giant and black oil sunflowers when the back of the head starts to turn yellow -- do this on a cloudy day, or in the afternoon, because in the morning they are facing the sun!
Lay the heads out to dry where they will be safe from animals. I do not recommend leaving them outside if you have raccoons nearby, as they will steal them.
When the heads turn brown, the seeds come off fairly easily.
Rub the head with another head or with your hand over a large bowl to catch the seeds.
The seeds can be eaten raw, sprouted for salads, salted and toasted, pressed for oil, or ground into flour.
The stalks and dry empty heads can be used for animal fodder (my rabbits like eating them), crafts, or can be chopped and put into the compost.
Stalks with smaller flower heads can be left standing for birds to pick at over the winter if you like, instead of harvesting them.
You'll most likely have volunteer sunflowers come up in that area, so do this when you want to reseed for next year.
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