Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Hail the Sun (flowers) !

 By Mary Oleksowicz, MSTOM,  L.Ac.

With the end of summer upon us, it seems like all creatures are craving that last “hurrah”.  Personally, the true mark of the end of summer is the harvesting of the sunflowers that have grown in the front yard this summer. These flowers can grow as tall as 12 feet in properly drained soil. The largest recorded sunflower was over 25 feet tall!
 Many of us recognize these “giants” of the garden for what seems to be a single enormous flower with yellow petals and a brown, velvety center. However, appearances can be deceiving.  Did you know that while the sunflower appears to be one huge flower, the yellow petals are actually protective leaves that cover the central head while the plant grows. In actuality, a single sunflower head contains hundreds of tiny flowers called florets. These florets are where the sunflower seeds originate.  

Sunflower seeds have been used since ancient times. There use has been documented in the temples of the pre-Columbus Americans. While generally perceived to be an” American” flower , the sunflower also became popular in Europe through inter-continental trade. In fact, the Russian Orthodox Church increased sunflower popularity when it forbade most oil foods from being consumed during Lent. Sunflower was not on the prohibition list and thus earned enormous popularity as an “allowable” food source.

These food sources are powerhouse of nutrition. In addition to containing the powerful antioxidant, selenium, sunflower seeds are sources of magnesium and a non-dairy source of calcium. Sunflower seed can be allowed to dry on the stem, although the birds may eat them before you do!  An alternative is to cut the flower head off when the larger yellow petals have fallen off and the sunflower head starts to bend from the weight of the seeds. The stems can be hung up to dry.  I would suggest placing a paper bag with several small holes around the flower head. This will help to catch the seeds as they ripen from the stem. The holes in the bag will prevent the seeds from molding. You can then keep the raw seeds for immediate consumption. If not you can roast the seeds and keep them for yourself as well as for bird visitors during the winter months. Just remember, if you prefer your roasted seeds “salted”, be sure to soak them in a salt water solution overnight.

Perhaps the most interesting sunflower fact is related to the French name for the flower which is “tournesol”, which translates as “turns to the sun” .This designation is quite appropriate as sunflowers exhibit heliotropic behavior. As sunflowers begin to grow, motor cells tilt the sunflower during daylight hours so that the plant can receive the most light. In fact many young sunflowers follow the sun through the course of the day, tracing the sun’s position from east to west. Through the night, the sunflower returns to the east-facing position and will follow the sun’s position to the west again the next day. Once the plant begins to bloom, this unique capability ceases and the stem tends to freeze in the final eastward position.

So as the warm season ends perhaps the best “sunflower” based advice was coined by Helen Keller. “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do."  May you find sunshine and nourishment even on the coldest days !


Post a Comment

About Me

Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
View my complete profile