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How to Process Sunflowers for Seed Saving or Roasting

Updated on April 5, 2018
Cynthia Hoover profile image

Cynthia is a homesteader who grows, harvests, and stores many foods, and prefers natural, homemade remedies for her family.

Growing your own sunflowers is an extremely fun and rewarding task! Sunflowers are beautiful against any landscape, easy to plant and grow. Sunflowers will attract all manner of wildlife such as butterflies and even birds. The hardest part for our family when it comes to growing and harvesting our sunflowers is being sure we harvest them before the birds beat us to it!

We enjoy planting them and harvesting then year after year not just for their beauty but also for the food we can harvest from them. We get not only beautiful flowers during the growing season, but you also get to harvest the seeds as well. We save them for planting the following year, as well as saving some to roast for snacking too.

I have seen many people complain to me over the years that they waste the seeds because they think it is too difficult to process the sunflower heads to removed them. It takes me no time at all to remove the seeds and save them. This is not something you have to practice at to get fast, it really is simple and depending on the size of your harvest can be an extremely fast task to complete as well. My son is 4 years old and even he has a blast helping us harvest the seeds.

We always save some for planting again during the flowing season, and we also save them to eat as well. Once the seeds are removed you can save the flower heads for an environmentally friendly alternative to a scrubbing sponge! They work great on cleaning everything from showers, patios and even the tires on your vehicles! Or you can just toss them in a compost bin when you finish harvesting the seeds.

Step 1: Harvesting Sunflower Heads

The most important part is knowing when to harvest the sunflower heads. Waiting too long means your sunflowers will not be good for roasting if you plan on eating them. Harvest them by cutting them off the stalks when the petals are becoming dry and start to fall.

Step 2: Gather Items and Create a Work Station

The only item you really need to do this is a large plastic tote and a large bowl. You could skip the tote if your doing this outside. For me it is easier to set up on my dining table and use a tote and a large stainless steel mixing bowl.

Step 3: Cleaning The Seeds For Removal

Sunflower seeds reside in the center of the sunflower. They have tiny little sort of petals attached to each that you will want to remove. This is simple, hold the flower head inside the large tote and rub your hand over the seeds. These are very simple to remove, and take very little effort. The tote helps to control the mess.

Continue the process until all you see is the remaining seeds. Do this too all the sunflower heads, it is easier to process them all at once.

Step 4: Removing The Sunflower Seeds

Once you have 'cleaned' the flower heads and are left with only the seeds visible in the center of the flower heads you can begin removing the seeds. Hold your sunflower heads over a large mixing bowl (the largest you have is the best choice).

Use one hand to force the Sunflower head edges to touch on the backside. This allows the seeds to be easier to manipulate for removal. Use your other hand to firmly run across the seeds. Seeds will begin to pop out and land in your mixing bowl. You may also find that some may shoot across the room as well.

There maybe inch worms or other small insects that greet you as you remove the seeds. This is not a cause for worry, your sunflower seeds are fine. Continue to rub your hand accross the sunflower heads until you have removed all the seeds. Some areas will be tighter. If you meet too much resistance you can change your grip on the sunflower head to get those spots to loosen up.

Step 5: Storing Sunflower Seeds

If you want to store sunflower seeds for planting the following year. Simply rinse them then spread flat on cardboard or a cookie sheet lined with parchment to dry. Allow them to dry a full 24 hours. Then store in a dry airtight container in a cool place until you are ready to plant again.

Growing and Saving Sunflower Seeds

Growing and saving sunflower seeds is a great family activity. It is one of the flowers we grow year after year and even just a few sunflowers will yield a large amount of seeds for your family to enjoy! Sunflowers can be used to create a border or fence of flowers if you want to create a little privacy around your patio or pool.

We personally plant sunflowers around our house too. Our home get's full sun and there is little to no natural shade as the house sits atop a hill in a clearing. This has created some extremely hot temperatures in our home during summer months since the house was built well before central air was created. So we use sunflowers to create a natural shade around the house. Sunflowers are a fast growing flower and usually are tall enough to cover the downstairs windows by the time the temperatures outside start to really heat up the house.

Planting then around the house also gives us a nice way to watch nature as they draw pollinators and birds to the flowers. Being able to watch them through our windows allows us a much closer view of nature than we would be able to see normally. My son really enjoys pointing out the birds that come to visit the sunflowers and it gives me a chance to teach him various types of birds as they come to sample the seeds.

It is a little labor intensive to cultivate the seeds, but honestly it is one of the easier items to gather and process that we grow on our farm. If you enjoy new learning activities with your children and family oriented projects then growing sunflowers is a great choice. Sunflowers are among some of the easiest to grow and the largest as well. They make a beautiful bouquet of flowers if you enjoy keeping fresh flowers in your home or even in a vase on a patio table.

© 2018 Cynthia Hoover


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    • Cynthia Hoover profile image

      Cynthia Hoover 2 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Victoria Van Ness, thank you I am glad you enjoyed it! We have a lot of fun growing and harvesting Sunflowers year after year!

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 2 months ago from Fountain, CO

      Loved this informative article!