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You Are Here All About Sunflower > Frequently Asked Questions




Frequently Asked Questions

Sunflower on Stem
If you've ever wondered about sunflower heads following the sun, you've come to the right place! Find out the answer to that question and lots more by clicking on the questions below.

What's the difference between sunflower seed and sunflower kernel?

Is there any harm in eating the sunflower seed shells or hulls?

Where can I learn more about sunflower production from start to finish?

What resources do you have for teachers?

How many flowers or heads does the sunflower plant have?

When can I harvest my garden sunflowers? How will I know they are ready? How do I roast them?

How many commercial types of sunflower are grown?

How much does 1 cup of shelled sunflower kernels weigh?

How many calories in an ounce of raw sunflower kernels?

What is sunflower oil used for?

What is high oleic sunflower?

What is NuSunTM?

Which are the major producing states of sunflower?

Which countries are major producers of sunflower?

Why is Kansas the Sunflower State?

Why is the sunflower such a popular art form?

How is sunflower weight measured?

What is a hectare?

Why do birds like to eat sunflower seeds?

What is the height of the tallest sunflower?

What is the record for the most sunflower heads on one sunflower plant?

What size is the largest sunflower head on record?

What is the BTU/# of sunflower hulls?

Should I be concerned about allergies when eating sunflower seeds or oil?

Do sunflowers really follow the sun?

Is sunflower genetically modified (GMO)?



What's the difference between sunflower seed and sunflower kernel?

A sunflower kernel is the 'meat' of sunflower seed. When you buy sunflower kernels, it means the processor has mechanically removed the hull. The kernel is now in a convenient form to be sold raw, roasted for snacking, or used as an ingredient. When you buy sunflower seeds, this means the seed is left intact with the 'meat' of the seed still in the shell. It is normally roasted and seasoned and eaten as a snack by cracking the shell with one's teeth, discarding the hull and eating the delicious morsel within. View our recipes to find fantastic ways in which to incorporate sunflower kernels into your lifestyle.

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Is there any harm in eating the sunflower seed shells or hulls?

The hulls are primarily fiber. Eating a lot of the hulls could conceivably cause one to become impacted. If not chewed properly, the sharp pieces of shell could possibly puncture or attach to the linings of the esophagus or digestive tract. Medical literature confirms a number of cases in children where impaction has occurred due to eating sunflower shells. Visit the Health & Nutrition section of our site to find out more about the nutritional value of the sunflower seed/kernel.

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Where can I learn more about sunflower production from start to finish?

The Kansas State University Agronomy Farm developed a web site that has photos and a description of the process of planting sunflower all the way through harvest. The site shows and explains the different sunflower growth stages, production tips, and practices from May through October. You may also want to visit our Production Resource Books page for further information.


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What resources do you have for teachers?

The National Sunflower Association has developed an educational coloring book for children that can be conveniently downloaded. The history page about sunflower on our web site may also be of interest.

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How many flowers or heads does the sunflower plant have?

The cultivated sunflower has only one flower or head. But the wild cousins found growing in ditches and other areas throughout much of North America have multiple flowers and heads. Multiples of 20 and more heads are common. The 'wilds' are the genetic basis of today's domesticated sunflower.

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When can I harvest my garden sunflowers? How will I know they are ready? How do I roast them?

The heads will be ready to harvest when the back of the head has turned brown. In northern areas, this might be after the first killing freeze. In warmer areas, the plant will dry down naturally. Simply snip the head off the plant and rub the seeds out by hand. If birds or other pests are attacking your sunflower heads, you can cut the heads and hang them in your garage like onions often are dried. But you need to ensure that the seeds are mature. Look for the back of the head to be a banana yellow to turning brown before you harvest the heads. Remove any other plant debris. See our recipe section for guidance on how to roast sunflower seeds.

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How many commercial types of sunflower are grown?

There are two types grown. The first is Oilseed. This small black seed is very high in oil content and is processed into sunflower oil and meal. It is also the seed of choice of most bird feeders (see our Bird Feeding section). The second type is Non-oilseed (confectionery sunflower). This is a larger black and white striped seed used in a variety of food products from snacks to bread. For more information about confectionery sunflower, visit our Sunflower Seed/Kernel section.


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How much does 1 cup of shelled sunflower kernels weigh?

1 cup = 8 oz (volume) = 4.2 oz (kernel by weight)


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How many calories in an ounce of raw sunflower kernels?

The short answer is 160 calories. But there are so many healthy benefits to the sunflower kernel that we invite you to peruse the Health & Nutrition area of our web site. There you will find a wealth of information about the nutrient composition of the sunflower kernel as well as fatty acid profiles.

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What is sunflower oil used for?

Sunflower oil is light in taste and appearance and supplies more Vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. It is a combination of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with low saturated fat levels. Sunflower oil is valued for its light taste, frying performance and health benefits. There are three types of sunflower oil available; NuSun, linoleic and high oleic sunflower oil. Visit our Sunflower Oil section for more information.

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What is high oleic sunflower?

High oleic sunflower oil is above 82 percent oleic (monounsaturated) acid. Read more about fatty acid profiles of sunflower oil, a healthy choice for use in your diet.

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What is NuSunTM?

NuSunTM is a mid-range oleic (monounsaturated) sunflower oil. It needs no hydrogenation and has a 9 percent saturated fat level. NuSunTM is extremely functional for frying applications and has a good balance of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that enhances the taste of products. Visit the NuSunTM section on our web site to learn more about this outstanding sunflower oil.



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Which are the major producing states of sunflower?

The Dakotas, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas and California. Our USDA Reports provide the status of oil and non-oil plantings for the top producing states in the country. The tables include information on acres planted, harvested, yield per pound per acre, and production per 1000 pounds for the current and most recent years.

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Which countries are major producers of sunflower?

The largest traditional producer is Russia or the former Soviet Union. Argentina, the combined European Union, China, India, Turkey and South Africa are all significant producers of sunflower. To view the most current and historical data regarding harvest, production, and import data for sunflower seed, oil, and meal throughout the United States and the world, visit the World Supply & Disappearance section.

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Why is Kansas the Sunflower State?

The sunflower plant is native to North America. The wild sunflower is so common in Kansas, it is actually a serious weed problem. These are the multiple headed plants.

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Why is the sunflower such a popular art form?

The sunflower plant has almost 'human-like' characteristics and dimensions. The face of the blooming sunflower can almost speak to you. For this reason, the sunflower was a favorite subject for Europe's greatest artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso. Sales of these paintings can bring millions of dollars today. The sunflower continues to be a favorite art form for designers of fashion to the every-day coffee mug. It has, and continues, to stand the test of time.

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How is sunflower weight measured?

The most common world measurement is the metric ton. It is 1,000 kilograms or 2,204.62 pounds. Price quotations to the U.S. farmer are in hundredweight. Farmers in the U.S. gauge their yields by pounds per acre. Some government reports use bushels (28 pounds to the bushel).

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What is a hectare?

A hectare is unit of surface measured in the metric system, equal to 10,000 square meters, i.e., 1 hectare = 2.471 acres.

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Why do birds like to eat sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds are high in energy and provide many of the nutrients that most birds need and prefer. Studies indicate that most seed eating bird species prefer sunflower to other common types of seed. Because of the high interest in bird feeding, we added a section to our web site to help answer this question and others. Check it out!


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What is the height of the tallest sunflower?

A sunflower grown in the Netherlands holds the record for being the tallest sunflower in the world. It measured 25 feet, 5.4 inches. (Source: 2004 Guinness World Records)

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What is the record for the most sunflower heads on one sunflower plant?

According to the 2004 Guinness World Records, a sunflower grown in Michigan had 837 heads on one plant.

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What size is the largest sunflower head on record?

That honor belongs to a 32 inch (82 cm) sunflower head that grew in British Columbia. (Source: 2004 Guinness World Records)

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What is the BTU/# of sunflower hulls?

Sunflower hulls have a BTU content of 8300-8500 BTU/lb.

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Should I be concerned about allergies when eating sunflower seeds or oil?

Confirmed cases of individuals allergic to sunflower seeds/oil are very rare. However, individuals allergic to peanuts or tree nuts should carefully look at the label to insure that the sunflower seed has been packed in a peanut and tree nut free facility.


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Do sunflowers really follow the sun?

When the plant is in the bud stage, it tends to track the movement of the sun across the horizon. Once the flower opens into the radiance of yellow petals, it faces east. No one knows why. However, it is likely a defensive response. Facing south or west could result in sun-scalding of seeds during very hot days.

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Is sunflower genetically modified (GMO)?

No. Sunflower is not a genetically modified plant (non-GMO). Europe is a large production region for sunflower and the EU will not accept GMO planting seed. The regulatory hurdles in the U.S. are insurmountable at the present time due to possible gene flow to wild sunflower. Without Europe and the U.S. there is not enough market size for the private sector to make the necessary investment in sunflower GMO.

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