The taste of Sunflowers

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Driving home the other day I noticed the sunflowers I had been starting to see were now in full bloom. The bright yellow blossoms line the road to my house, as they do on many Kansas roads.

Looking at them I began to wonder. Surely, there is something you can do with those flowers. When I got home, I Googled uses for sunflowers. While I was sure you could make soap or something like that out of them, I was surprised to learn the petals on the flowers are edible, sometimes even used as a garnish on a salad.

Upon further investigation I found a recipe for Sunflower Jelly.

I set out with my measuring cup in hand and began to pick enough petals for my first batch of sunflower jelly. This was a much less painful process than the blackberries I’d picked earlier in the summer. No thorns, no scratches and no bleeding. It doesnimg_3286’t take long to gather enough petals.

Be cautious in your picking though because there also are Black-Eyed Susans in bloom right now and they look a lot like sunflowers. One way to tell the difference is by the leaves. According to Larry Crouse, K-State Research and Extension horticulture agent, the sunflower has heart-shaped leaves, while Black-Eyed Susans are long and slender. In addition, he said the Black-Eyed Susan (rudbeckia) also has a raised black center to the flower; it always has a black, or very dark, center; and it doesn’t develop the big seed load like a sunflowimg_3287er.

Once collected rinse the leaves and put them in a jar. To make the jelly, you pour 2 1/2 cups of boiling water over the 2 cups of petals and zest from one lemon, cover that with a saucer or lid and let it steep for two hours. Then strain the water off of the mixture and put in a pan. Add one box of pectin and a quarter cup of bottled lemon juice, then bring that to a boil. Once boiling, add 3 1/2  cups of sugar. Stirring constantly, bring that to a boil and let boil one minute. You can then fill your sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for five minutes.

* Note: Despite having the lemons, do not use fresh squeezed lemon juice in the jelly. I have read in other methods of preserving not to use fresh squeeze but rather bottled because it has a consistent acidity which is needed for canning.

img_3407-cutout-2After first tasting the jelly, I made the comment that “it tastes like summer.” I look forward to opening a jar when the temperatures are below freezing and there is snow on the ground, just to bring back just a bit of summer.

I also wanted to save some of those sunflower petals, so I collected more and dried them for about 12 hours on my dehydrator then sealed them in baggies for soaps and other uses.

I will research more this winter when canning season is over and I’m looking for something to do.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

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