|Sunflower (Helianthus annus)|
Saturday, 13 August 2011
The Sunflower, so called because the flower head follows the suns track, has been with us since 1576 and is a great favourite with record-breakers. This fast growing annual has a thick, tall, hairy stem, heart-shaped leaves and large yellow flower heads in the summer. The nutritious seeds are eaten raw, roasted, and ground into meal or nut butter, and were used by native American warriors as 'energy cakes'. The flower-buds give a yellow dye and can be cooked like artichokes. The pressed seeds yield an all-purpose oil with culinary, cosmetic and industrial uses. The stem pith yields potash and fibres for textiles and paper. The seed heads also provide food for birds in winter. Its natural habitat is the USA and needs well-drained soil and lots of sun.