Sunflowers, native to North America, come in giant or small varieties. The scientific name, Helianthus, comes from the Greek word meaning “sun,” and have the repuation for following it during the day. It is a crop vegetable, grown both for its seeds and its oil. Domesticated sunflower varieties have one flower head, while wild sunflowers can sport multiple flower heads.
Sunflowers are propogated by seed. Sow outdoors after the final frost has passed. Plant in rows spaced about a foot to 18 inches apart for the larger varieties, and 9 inches to 12 inches apart for the small varieties. If a continuous harvest is desired, then plant a new row in the garden every 3 weeks until the first frost of the season forms.
Check the sunflower heads: the back sides of the sunflowers will be a yellow-brownish coloring, and they will be heavy enough to point down. Each spot where the each of the florets were will now be the mature sunflower seeds. Cut off the heads with at least 12 inches of the stem attached, then hang in a dry spot, and let them cure for about 3 to 4 weeks, or until the heads have suffiecnetly dried so that the seeds dislodge easily. Then, once the seeds are removed from the seed heads, spread them out on a sheet pan and let the seeds dry out for a few more days.
Place the sheet pan(s) in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.