Sunflowers are so much more than beautiful, summertime yard decorations. Sunflower seeds are a favorite of many birds, and harvesting your own can save you money at the feed store. The seeds also make a nutritious snack for you and your family, as they are loaded with protein, Vitamin E, B vitamins, and essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium. The seeds can also be harvested and used to start next season's sunflower crop. If you grow your own sunflowers, harvesting and storing the seeds is a project that can save you money in the long run, no matter what you choose to use them for.
Watch for the back of your sunflower heads to turn from green to pale yellow. This signals that it is time for them to be harvested. If they are not quite ready to be cut, but the birds are starting to get into them, stretch a piece of nylon stocking and put it over the top of the sunflower head for protection from the birds.
Run your fingers across the sunflower head to see if the seeds readily fall from it. If they do, the heads are ready for harvest.
Cut the sunflower head off the stalk, taking a foot of the stem with it.
Hold the sunflower head by the stalk, upside down, over a large window screen that is laying flat on the counter. Run your hand back and forth across the sunflower head to release the seeds onto the screen.
Separate any debris from the seeds, and spread the seeds out on the screen. Allow them to dry on the screen for three days. Be sure the screen is in an area that will not be visited by rodents.
Place the dried seeds in a sealed glass jar, and store in a cool, dry place.