How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds
It’s a little sad to see your once bright yellow sunflowers brown and hanging down when they were once so bright and proud. When the sunflower heads face down, turn brown on the face and yellow to brownish-yellow on the back of the head, the seeds are probably ready to harvest. Another indicator that the seeds are ready is if the seeds are nice and plump with the stripes that are typically on sunflower seeds.
So you’ve determined that the seeds are ready, so now you can cut off the sunflower heads. Cut them off at the stem about 1 foot from the top. You can then hang them in a dry place with tight netting to catch the seed, or you can simply rub the seeds off with your hands. I would advise gloves as the seeds are rough on your hands. Also, get a large bowl or bucket to catch the seeds. The wider the better, as seeds pop off as you are taking the seeds off.
Once you’ve got the seeds off the sunflower heads, you will notice that lots of other things are in your bucket that you don’t want. You will have pieces of the sunflower head, immature sunflowers, and sunflower seeds with holes in them where somebody beat you to the seed. This does not look particularly appetizing, but how the hell do you sort these things without spending hours sorting seeds? That was the question I was asking myself as I was doing this for the first time. Then I had an idea. The pieces of sunflower are very light, so are the bad seeds, as the seed inside is gone making it lighter than the full seeds. So, that gave me the idea to winnow the seed. I brought my fan outside, and grabbed two bowls, one being a colander to sift out the dirt and debris. I turned the fan one and poured the seeds out from bowl to bowl again and again, until most of the light bad stuff blew away. You do have to get the right fan speed, and watch it so you don’t dump out your good seed, but it actually worked really well. It saved me a ton of time.
At this point, you can rinse the seeds off in your colander, then place them in a single layer on a towel or paper towels to dry, dabbing them on top. Once dried, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. If you want to eat them right away, roasting is a simple way to prepare them, but they can be eaten raw, and taste fine that way. I will be posting a recipe on roasting the seeds tomorrow.