How to Harvest and Roast Sunflower Seeds

Treat the tastebuds, plan ahead for replanting, and delight backyard wildlife with your homegrown sunflower seeds.

Big or small, if you’re growing sunflowers, save ‘em all. It’s the perfect time of year to begin harvesting all of the flower heads and their seeds for next year’s replanting, and sunflowers are no exception, except they’re edible and delicious and healthy, too. Keep an eye on your sunflowers now, and be ready to harvest the seeds before wildlife steals your inventory. 

Wait for the Sunflower to Droop

Admire the sunflowers in their glory for as long as you can, but pay close attention when the heads start to droop and the petals begin to shrivel. The blossom has begun to dry out and the seeds are nearly ready for harvest. The seeds may become magnets for aggressive (and hungry) wildlife, and while it’s nice to leave the heads in-tact on the plant for as long as you can, you may find it easier to cut off the top 12” of stem with the blossom, and allow it to dry in an animal-free space. You can also wrap the head with a layer of cheesecloth while still attached to the stalk as a deterrent before you harvest.

Capture the Seeds

If you’ve wrapped the head of the sunflower in cloth, you might find that loose seeds have begun to dislodge themselves. Sunflower seeds will easily fall out with a little friction – such as the brush of your hand – so have a container or paper bag ready to collect the harvest.

Comb through the seeds, and if any appear damaged (nibbled) or discolored, throw them away.

Preserve Some Seeds for Replanting

If you had a successful sunflower crop with healthy plants, consider saving some of those seeds for next year’s plantings (and of course, to give away seeds to all of your friends who admired the blossoms). Glass jars, such as baby food containers are great for storing seeds from season-to-season. Allow the seeds to dry on the blossom for as long as possible before packaging them for replanting.

Or Save Some for Wildlife During the Winter

Feeling generous? Do the squirrels and birds a favor, and hoard the seeds away for a cold, cold day. (FYI – learn how to dry and save corn too!)

Roast the Rest

All of the remaining seeds? Wash them thoroughly in cool water, and allow them to dry thoroughly on towels. Once they’ve been given a day to dry, they’re ready to eat! 

If you fancy roasted sunflower seeds, give the sunflower seeds an extra bath of salt water. To a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of kosher salt per quart of water used (enough to cover the seeds), and then stir, cover and allow the seeds to soak overnight. The following day, heat the oven to 300-degrees, pat-dry the seeds with a paper towel, and distribute seeds evenly on a baking tray. Slow-bake them for 30-45 minutes, until you see the shells becoming toasted. Some of the shells may also begin to crack open.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Harvest sunflower seeds for a nutritious snack straight from the back yard.

Prefer additional seasonings? Once you’ve removed the seeds from the oven, sprinkle with additional toppings such as cinnamon sugar, pumpkin spice or dry barbecue rub.

Allow to cool, and devour! Keep in mind that removing the shells by hand is time-intensive and not necessary,crunch the shell to eat the seed, and toss the rest.

Store the toasted and cooled seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a month. 

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