The Sunflower has never been as popular as it is today. As well as being beautiful, sunflowers are very versatile. Images of sunflowers conger up thoughts of peace, life, spring and a whole host of positive thoughts, it's no wonder that the image is so prevalent in the marketing of all sorts of products and services from Sunflower Broadband to The Sunflower Peace Project.
Although it is easy to think of the sunflower as a single flower, it is actually a composite of small florets, which, arranged in circles, comprise the face of the sunflower head. Each floret has its own ovary, stigma, style, and anthers, and produces a single seed. A large sunflower head, perhaps a foot across, can have as many as eight thousand florets. Perhaps no other pant congers up images of prehistoric times like the giant sunflower. The outer ring of florets has large ray petals, which can be a greenish yellow when young, turning a darker yellow orange on maturity. Sunflowers are remarkably easy to grow. In fact, they often self-seed, as bird feeding enthusiasts know. More black oil sunflower seed is used each year for bird feed than almost all other seeds combined. Many people just know of the classic yellow large sunflower, but there are hundreds of varieties from the giants like Sunzilla, Skyscraper and Russian Mammoth to the great dwarf varieties like the Sunny Smile, Teddy Bear and Elf and all sorts of different sizes and colors in between. They can be used in so many different ways, to create so many different garden looks during the hot months where most other plants struggle. Sunflowers are also becoming more widely available as cut flowers, as their popularity grows. They are long-lasting (7-10 days in a vase), and make fabulous, bold arrangements, irresistibly drawing the eye with their large blooms and bright colors. Sunflower seeds can be eaten roasted and salted as a snack, or baked in breads and biscuits, or used as a tasty garnish for salads. As well as being delicious, they also provide a wealth of nutrition and energy. Sunflower seeds are 25 percent protein, making them higher in protein than grains. Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, as well as magnesium and selenium, for people with high blood pressure, sunflower seeds are a good choice because they are very high in potassium but low in sodium, a balance sorely needed in the snack-food industry. Substituting sunflower seed oil for butter and shortening when cooking is a move in the right direction.
Believe it or not, there is even talk about the use of sunflower oil as a partial substitute for petroleum based fuels. Perhaps in the not so distant future we will see beautiful fields of sunflowers cropping up all over this great country providing us not only with spectacular views, but clean natural resources as well. What's not to love!