Harvesting sunflower seeds may seem like a no-brainer… until you try to do it and realize some instruction could have been helpful. Once you know when and how to harvest these seeds, you’ll find it’s an easy activity that leads to a delicious roasted summer treat.
Sunflower seeds are ready to harvest when the center of the flower begins to turn dark and the back of the flower head turns yellow. You’ll be able to see the black seeds as they get larger. The birds will also let you know when the seeds are ready to harvest by snacking on a few themselves. You can pick the flower heads early, but it’s best for the seeds to mature in the garden, so cover the flower heads with paper bags or pantyhose to protect them from birds.
When the seeds are plump and black and white striped, cut the head from the flower and hang it in a cool location to dry for about a week. When the flower head is dry, you will be able to break it in half and rub the seeds out of the head with gloved hands. Place the seeds on a flat surface to dry completely.
You can harvest sunflower seeds for three reasons: to make your own bird food, to plant sunflowers next season or as a snack for you and your family. If you are planning to eat the seeds, they will need to be roasted first. To roast sunflower seeds, soak them in salted water overnight, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 200 F for three to four hours, stirring occasionally.