How to Harvest & Cook Sunflower Seeds


Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) make tall and boldly colorful additions to any backyard garden, but they're good for more than just ornamental purposes. Each sunflower produces hundreds of plump, black seeds. Prepare these seeds as a tasty baked snack that can be eaten on its own, added to your favorite entrees or sprinkled on salads.

Step 1

Wait for the petals of the sunflower to fall off of the flower head. This may take anywhere from 50 to 80 days, depending on the variety. The approximate days-to-harvest time is listed on the seed packet for your specific sunflower variety.

Step 2

Cover the sunflower head with an upside-down paper bag. This protects the seeds from hungry birds, according to the University of Minnesota. Secure the mouth of the paper bag loosely around the sunflower's stem with a piece of garden twine.

Step 3

Peek inside the paper bag every couple of days to check the status of the sunflower. Cut off the sunflower head, leaving 1 to 2 feet of stem, after the back of the sunflower has turned yellow-brown.

Step 4

Hang the cut flower upside down in a cool and ventilated area to let the seeds dry further. Once the flower is brown, remove the paper bag and rub the face of the sunflower to dislodge the plump seeds. Use a bag or bucket to collect the seeds as they fall.

Step 5

Bake the sunflower seeds. For salted sunflower seeds, the University of California suggests soaking the seeds for 12 hours in a solution made with 2 tbsp. sea salt dissolved in a cup of water. Spread the seeds onto a cookie sheet and bake them at 200 degrees F for three hours. For plain seeds, the university recommends spreading the dry sunflower seeds on a cookie sheet and baking them for 20 minutes at 300 degrees F.

Things You'll Need

  • Sunflower plant
  • Paper bag
  • Garden twine
  • Cookie sheet
  • Oven
  • Salt
  • Water


  • University of Minnesota Yard and Garden Brief: Sunflowers
  • University of California Cooperative Extension: Sunflowers In Your Garden

Who Can Help

  • National Sunflower Association
Keywords: harvest sunflower seeds, cook sunflower seeds, growing sunflowers

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.