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I've got a few giant sunflowers that are hanging pretty low. I peeled off a few seeds around the outside just to see what they looked like and they look pretty big. They're fairly light though, not dark like the seeds I planted or the seeds you buy in the store, and the seed inside the shell was really flat and almost gooey.

How much longer do I have to go and when will I know they're ready to pick. I'd like to roast them. Also, should I knock off the petals on the flower (does this help them not rot)?

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2 Answers

Again with my go-to reference on all things seed-related, "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth, p 87. You can harvest sunflower seeds:

  • When the head is completely filled out and the petals have fallen off,
  • cut it off and dry in an area protected from birds.
  • Remove the seeds when no longer soft or damp.
  • Using thumbs and index fingers, bend a shelled seed.
    • If it snaps in two, it's dry enough for storage.
    • Most will need additional drying.
    • Dry in a 1" layer in a basket in a warm area out of direct sunlight. (And safe from those pesky birds, and possibly mice!)

I wouldn't knock off the petals -- they serve as an indicator it is ready as noted above.

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Thanks, I only knocked the petals off one head (as an experiment). –  Peter Turner Aug 30 '11 at 17:06
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Harvesting and storage

Sunflower is ready to harvest when the back portion of the head turns brown. The seeds actually mature somewhat earlier, but the head will be too wet for efficient harvest until the brown color appears. Timely harvest is important to minimize losses due to birds and late season diseases.

You may also wish to read the complete document that the above quote comes from:

Personally I wouldn't spend the time removing the petals, as I don't believe it will have any effect on the developing seeds ie It will not speed up the process.

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