August 8, 2011
Kristie, Floral Manager
Sunflowers: A cheerful flower that reminds us of hot summer days and warm evenings throughout summer months.
The presence of this bright, and glorious bloom is often loved by all. Some, however, view it as a roadside weed traveling in the wind and rooting itself in the most awkward of places, as we have the thought, “How did those get there?” However, there is much more to learn about these human-like figures that crowd the hillsides of Tuscany and other regions of the world. They are grown in many colors as well, some of which few of us have seen, like Green Ice, burgandy and others. They grow in many semi-arid regions around the world from Argentina to Canada and from central Africa into the Soviet Union. Although a native to the Americas, the sunflower symbolized the image of the Sun Gods to the Incas and its sunny presence and edible seeds have linked the plant to humans for 4,000 years or more. The first known signs of the sunflower’s domestication by humans was around 2300 B. C. in Tennessee.
DID YOU KNOW?
Commercially available sunflower varieties contain 39%-49% oil in the seed. In 1985-1986, sunflower seed was the third largest source of vegatable oil worldwide, following soybean and palm. the growth of sunflower as an oilseed crop has rivaled that of a soybean, with increasing production since the 1930′s. Sunflower accounts for about 14% of the world production of seed oils. (6.9 metric tons in 1985 to be exact). Additionally, Europe and the USSR produce over 60% of the world’s sunflowers.
The oil accounts for 80% of the value of the sunflower crop, as contrasted with soybean which derives most of it’s value from the meal. Sunflower oil is generally considered a premium oil becase of its light color, high level of unsaturated fatty acids and lack of linolenic acid, its blend flavor and high smoke points. In many sunflower-producing countries, sunflower is the preferred and the most commonly used oil. Currently, research is being carried out to refine the oil for use as a bio-diesel. Imagine that!
We all know about this! Delicious sunflower seeds are great in salads, granola, in breads or just plain. So good, and good for you. A perfect source of protein lightly toasted to bring out its nutty flavor.
LETS FACE IT!
An interesting find is that of the sunflower’s florets itself. The center of the sunflower – the focal point, the personality, the face – is quite technical in it’s composition. This detail has been studied and formulated by mathmaticians such as Leonardo Fibonacci (a 13th century Italian mathmatician from Pisa, Tuscany). The complex structure is based upon the famous “Golden ratio” where the growth rate of successive numbers gives a ratio which converges on 1/2x(1=/5)=1.618, known as the “Divine Proportion” or “Golden Section” of geometry and aesthetics in nature. “Divine Proportion” -something every woman has dreamed of! It’s fascinating to me that someone, a genius of course, thought of this using this flower’s intricate face, if you will, to discover an actual rythm for something scientists are fascinated by to this day. In simple terms, this equation means that there can be 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other direction. In the larger sunflowers, this quantity increases both directions. The symmetry and logic of a sunflower’s flower structure and perfection has astounded and fascinated artists and mathmaticians alike. And to us it’s captivating as we view it’s presence, we may not even know why we like them so much? Perhaps it is the symmetry and we don’t even realize what it is we find that captivates us.
Read more about the fun facts at www.lifeinitaly.com and www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/sunflower.html
Sunflowers are now in season at a Harmons near you and the “icing on the cake” as we celebrate 79 years being your neighborhood grocer. Visit your Harmons Floral department throughout the month of August to see some new varieties and come celebrate with us!