Flower and Delicious Sunflower Bread
The sunflower family (Helianthus) has perfect flowers, with male and female organs both on the same flower, but with either the male or the female organ infertile. What is usually called the flower is actually a composite flower, made up of numerous flowers or florets crowded together. Once the plant has flowered, usually in summer, it produces a sweet pollen mixture that lures bees and other insects.
When the bees arrive, they get their feet wet with the pollen as they drink the plant’s nectar.
The plant relies on the sperm-producing pollen coming into contact with the egg-containing stigma. The yellow pollen is transferred from the insect’s hairy legs to the stigma. This is the first step in sunflower reproduction. Once the pollen goes down the stigma, it releases sperm into the ovary. An available egg receives the sperm, and the egg is fertilized with a meat-bearing seed. The pollen/sperm can belong to the original plant or may come from another sunflower. Self-pollination is a mechanism that the sunflower uses to stay alive.
On the occasion where the stigma receives no pollen, the stigma will twist and wrap itself around its own pollen. Seeds created by self-pollination will only produce flowers that look like the original plant, so no hybridization will have occurred. Sunflowers are fast reproducers, and one plant can create dozens of others. Plant seeds about an 1 inch below the ground. Germination occurs quickly, usually between 5 and 10 days, but spring crops produce more plants than summer crops. Spring crops are planted in April and May.
Summer crops go in the ground in June and July. When the back of the plant’s head turns brown, it is ready for harvesting. The Sunflower’s symbiotic relationships with other plants usually benefit the Sunflower, because the sunflower takes all the nutrients and water from the soil for itself and takes over (hence, its invasive). The Sunflower’s relationships with bees and birds and humans is much less greedy, however. The huge face of the Sunflower feeds many bees with its sweet pollen, baseball players and birds feed off of its multitudes of plump, ripe seeds.
The Sunflower was first cultivated in mesoamerica (present day Mexico) in 2600 BC (A Gardeners Guide, 1996) and there is evidence that it was being used by the Native Americans in the Mississippi valley in around the same time. It is widely believed that Sunflowers were cultivated for religious purposes having to do with various tribal sun deities. They also used the oil for religious rituals having to do with warfare, bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints.
When Francisco Pizzaro ravaged and plundered the welcoming tribes of Peru, he came across gold paintings and idols of Sunflowers, which he stole and brought back to europe in the 16th century. The Europeans have been growing sunflowers since then, mostly in Holland, Germany, and France. Sunflowers are cultivated nowadays to make Sunflower butter (a peanut butter alternative), and it is mixed with rye to make a delicious Sunflower bread, bird food, salad mixings, etc. The Sunflower oil, which is taken from the ripe seeds is used commonly for cooking and also used as a cheaper biodiesel. Sunflowers also produce latex