harvest sunflower seeds

How To Harvest and Dry Fresh Sunflower Seeds Successfully

Sunflowers resemble the sun with their big bright yellow petals. The unique, tall-standing flowers are not only gorgeous to look at, but they produce a large amount of healthy, edible seeds. 

These versatile seeds can be used in baking, salads, turned into oil, spreads, and eaten alone as a snack.

If you live in a moderately warm climate, sunflowers can be easy to grow in your own garden. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about drying your own sunflower seeds

Can Sunflower Seeds Be Dried?

Yes, dried sunflower seeds make a great snack and are useful in cooking. They can also be dried specifically for planting. To get the best quality out of the dried seeds, it is important to harvest them at the right time and in the right way. 

Harvesting sunflower seeds too early will result in inedible white seeds, whereas a late harvest will yield desiccated seeds that are not suitable for roasting.

Sunflower seeds are ready to be harvested when they show the typical black-on-white exterior stripes. The seeds are their plumpest when the flower starts to wilt, petals fall off and the stem turns yellow or slightly brown.

How To Dry Sunflower Seeds

Step 1: Prepare for Harvest – Cover

If you live in a dry sunny climate, leave the sunflowers on the stem for the first stage of drying. If you are in a humid climate, drying them off the stem may be better to prevent mold.

The sunflower head will begin to droop, petals will fall off, and the seeds should start to plump up. The wilted head of the sunflower with few petals left is very appealing for birds, squirrels, and other animals to snack on. 

To protect the seeds, cover the head of the sunflower with a paper bag or cheesecloth. Tie it loosely with string to prevent it from being knocked off. Do not use a plastic covering as this will prevent sufficient airflow and the head will rot. 

Step 2: Replace the Cover

If the bags get wet or tear, replace them with dry, whole paper bags. Be careful when removing the covering as some seeds may have started to drop off. 

Collect any seeds that have dropped into the old bag and store them in an airtight container until the full harvest is ready for drying.

In the case of rain, you may cover the sunflowers with plastic just to prevent them from getting wet. Do not tie the plastic and remove it as soon as the rain clears.

Step 3: Cut and Hang

The back of the head will turn yellow-brown within a few days of wilting. Leaving the bags on, cut the stems 1 ft (30 cm) below the flower. Be careful not to lose falling seeds during the process if the paper bags slip off accidentally.

Choose a warm dry area to continue the drying process. This can be indoors as long as there is good air ventilation to prevent moisture build-up. Tie the stems with string and hang the sunflower heads upside down from a hook or beam. 

Check them on a daily basis, emptying the bag from any seeds that have dropped off. Store the seeds in an air-tight container until all the seeds have been harvested.

Step 4: Harvest Remaining Seeds

After 1 to 4 days, the head will finish drying. It will turn dark brown and dry. Untie the hanging stems. Be careful to keep the bags on as you will lose plenty of seeds if they fall off. 

Place the sunflowers on a table or counter and carefully remove the bag. Gather all the seeds that have fallen off. Brush the dried head of the flower with your hands or a brush to remove the remaining seeds until they are all dislodged.

Step 5: Clean

Place all the seeds you have stored and harvested in a bowl. Rinse the seeds thoroughly with cold water to remove dirt and bacteria. Drain them through a sieve or colander. 

Spread the sunflower seeds out in a single layer on a few sheets of paper towel to dry for a couple of hours. Remove any damaged bits or debris.

Step 6: Salt Soak (Optional)

Prepare a mixture of 2 quarts (2l) water and ¼  to ½ a cup salt. Soak the seeds in the solution overnight. Alternatively, you can boil them in the solution for 2 hours as a quicker method.

Drain the seeds and spread them out to dry in a single layer on paper towels.

Step 6: Roast

Whether or not you have salt-soaked the seeds, make sure they are completely dry before roasting. 

Spread them onto a shallow baking sheet in a single layer so that they do not lie on top of each other. Roast them for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned at 300 °F (149 °C). Stir occasionally to allow even drying. 

Step 7: Cool and Store

Remove the roasted seeds from the oven and let them cool completely for 30 to 40 minutes.

Place them in an airtight container or resealable bag and store them in the refrigerator.



Sunflower seeds can be used to make a variety of different products and used diversely in cooking.

They are used to make sunflower spread, oil, in baking, salads, cooked dishes, and eaten as a snack with dried fruits and nuts. They provide a fantastic nutty flavor and crunchy texture.

One sunflower can yield between 1000 and 2000 seeds. Of course, you may lose some during the harvesting process if you are not careful when handling the flower heads. 

Keep the sunflower head in dry, warm conditions during the harvesting and drying period for best results. Always store them in air-tight containers to prevent rancidity.

Enjoy this fantastic healthy snack and spruce up any soup, stir-fry, sandwich, vegetable, or salad dish with your home-roasted sunflower nuggets.

drying sunflower seeds

*image by dndavis/depositphotos

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