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Helianthus Annuus, Sunflower, Autumn Beauty Mix

£0.79

Multi-branched plants producing flowers in a mix of warm shades of orange, yellow, bronze and red. Strong-stemmed and 4-6" across, an excellent choice for cut flowers. 

Sunflowers can be grown as a spring-sown green manure, they produce a good bulk of material.

Root secretions from the plant can inhibit the growth of nearby plants.

A good bee plant, providing large quantities of nectar. The flowers attract beneficial insects such as lacewings and parasitic wasps. These prey on various insect pests, especially aphis.

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils, including poor soils provided they are deep and well-drained, but it grows best in a deep rich soil. Plants are intolerant of acid or waterlogged conditions. Especially when grown for its edible seed, the plant prefers a sunny position though it also tolerates light shade. Requires a neutral or preferably calcareous soil.

As sunflowers have highly efficient root systems, they can be grown in areas which are too dry for many other crops. Established plants are quite drought-resistant except during flowering.

The growing plant can accumulate nitrates, especially when fed on artificial fertilizers.

Sow in mid spring in situ. An earlier start can be made by sowing 2 - 3 seeds per pot in a greenhouse in early spring. Use a fairly rich compost. Thin to the strongest seedling, give them an occasional liquid feed to make sure they do not become nutrient deficient and plant them out in late spring or early summer.

Edible uses

Seed - raw or cooked. A delicious nut-like flavour, but very fiddly to extract due to the small size of the seed. Rich in fats, the seed can be ground into a powder, made into sunflower butter or used to make seed yoghurt. When mixed with cereal flours, it makes a nutritious bread. The germinated seed is said to be best for seed yoghurt, it is blended with water and left to ferment. The sprouted seed can be eaten raw.

Young flower buds - steamed and served like globe artichokes. A mild and pleasant enough flavour, but rather fiddly. 

The roasted seed is a coffee and drinking chocolate substitute.

The leaf petioles are boiled and mixed in with other foodstuffs.

http://practicalplants.org/wiki/Helianthus_annuus

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