Sunflowers are simple to grow and the seeds are a delicious snack too. Keep reading to learn how to grow edible sunflower seeds, when to harvest sunflowers for the plumpest kernels, and how to roast edible sunflower seeds.
How to Grow, Harvest, and Roast Edible Sunflower Seeds
1. Choose a confection (edible) variety of sunflower seeds
Although sunflowers make excellent cut flowers and are grown for their bright blossoms, if you are growing them for the edible seeds it’s important to plant the type you can eat, called “confection varieties”.
There are short and tall confection varieties. Short types usually have fewer seeds, but the seeds are larger. The edible tall varieties produce a higher amount of slightly smaller seeds.
Small edible varieties include:
Tall edible varieties include:
2. How and when to plant edible sunflower seeds
Sunflowers are a warm-season crop. Plant after the danger of frost has passed in the spring and soil temperatures have warmed to about 60°F.
In warm-climate areas, start sunflowers directly in the soil. Plant sunflower seeds from February through July in the low desert of Arizona. In cooler-climate areas, seeds may be started indoors for transplanting outside, but take care not to disturb the roots.
Plant sunflower seeds about 1” deep in rich, well-draining soil. Sunflowers tolerate poor soil, but rich soil will produce a larger, stronger sunflower.
Space most edible varieties 12-18” apart to give the plants room to grow.
3. How to grow edible sunflower seeds
- Sunflowers need plenty of sun to grow well. Plant in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight.
- Give sunflowers regular water.
- Typically, sunflowers don’t require additional feeding.
- Keep the area weed free.
- Keep an eye on the flower head and when it begins to droop, cover it with netting to keep the birds from eating your seeds.
4. When to harvest edible sunflower seeds
Seeds should be harvested when the back of the seed head has turned brown for the largest kernels.
The seed head can be left on the plant to turn brown (cover the head with netting to protect it from birds) or removed when it turns yellow. To cut off the seed head when yellow, leave several inches of stem attached and then hang it upside down to continue ripening.
To remove seeds, rub two seed heads together or use your hands or a wire brush to loosen the seeds.
5. How to roast edible sunflower seeds
Once you have harvested the seeds, remove any debris and cover the seeds with water.
Add ¼-½ cup of salt per 2 quarts of water.
Soak seeds for 3-4 hours or overnight.
Drain off water (do not rinse) and pour seeds out onto a dish towel. Pat the seeds dry.
Spread the sunflower seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes at 300°F (or until lightly browned). Shake baking sheet once or twice during baking to stir seeds.