Flower Seeds Alphabetical List
flax: Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the flax family (Linaceae). It's an annual that grows about 2 feet tall. Once flax was a main source of fabric for clothing. It used to be planted on most farms, back in the days when a fabric called linsey-woolsey was popular, because the stalks can be made into linen, an exceptionally durable fabric. (Mummies in ancient Egypt are wrapped in a finer grade of linen than anybody now knows how to make.) Flax seeds are wonderful in dried fruit leathers and on crackers and desserts. They're also good livestock or poultry feed. Linseed oil is derived from the oil pressed from flax seeds. Climate and Varieties. Flax used to be a common crop right here in Idaho, but flax plants are now rarely seen in the United States, except in North and South Dakota. The plant does well in cool, dry climates like the Dakotas, Canada, and Russia (where most of the world's supply is now grown). Some flax varieties are best for flax seed, others for fiber production. Abundant Life, Bountiful Gardens,William Dam, and Richters carry various kinds. Planting Flax. Don't fertilize flax. It does fine in poor soil; the fertilizer would just encourage weeds, which flax can't compete with, since it doesn't shade the ground much. Plant in well-tilled, weed-free ground. The earlier you can get it into the ground for a running start on the remaining weed seeds, the better. Don't plant flax in a rotation following millet, sorghum, or Sudan grass; it doesn't cope well with their decaying roots. A successful rotation often used in Canada is rape, flax, and wheat.
Flax, either for seed or linen, is an annual, planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, except in warm parts of California, Texas, and Arizona. Plant just before corn planting time using the procedures for planting wheat. For seed, plant IV2 to 3V2 pecks per acre—IV2 in a dry climate, 3l/2 in a wet one. But for linen, plant at the heavy rate because thick stands produce more stalks and discourage branching, causing longer, smoother stalks (and longer, better flax fibers). Harvesting for Seed. Flax grows fast and blooms early, by June even in the Dakotas. The fields of waving blue flowers are lovely Flax continues to bloom even after the first seed is set, but in the North the later flowers won't have time to mature, so the harvest process begins as soon as most of the seed is almost ripe. The flax is cut, swathed, and left in the sun to finish ripening. Then the harvest is completed with a combine and a pickup reel. Flax doesn't give a big yield of seeds, only about 10 bushels per acre from an average crop, 30 from the best. Because of its tendency to contain weed seed, an extra screening is helpful. Eating Flax Seed. Flax seed stays fresher if unground, but you can use it whole or ground. You can mix it into a bread or sprouting mixture. The oil pressed from flax seed makes a fine cooking oil.
<i> FLAX SEED LEMONADE This is an old-time home remedy that's soothing for colds. Be careful not to crush the seeds, as their oil will make the drink nauseating. Pour I qt boiling water over 4 T. flax seed. Steep 3 hours. Strain, sweeten to taste, and add the juice of 2 lemons. If too thick, add more water. Another way to make lemonade is to boil 3 T. seed in 6 c. water until reduced to 3 c. Then add lemon and sugar, strain, and serve. Pioneers kept a coffeepot of this on the back of the stove so they could drink it as often as they took a notion to.
Flax for Linen. You harvest by pulling, not cutting, the stalks in order to have longer fibers. Flax will produce at least a ton of stalks per acre, and sometimes 2 or more, so the harvest from a small part of an acre will give 1 spinner plenty of flax to experiment with.
Flax Fiber Info. No. 133, Flax & Linen, is a useful reference. For their free catalog, contact Shire Publications, Ltd.: +441844-344301; fax +44-1844-347080; Cromwell House, Church St., Princes, Risborough, Bucks, U.K.; [email protected] books.co.uk; www.shirebooks.co.uk. The Retting of Flax & Hemp, by Paul W. Allen, M.S., Ph.D., comes from Caber Press (call/fax 503-735-3942; [email protected]; www. teleport.com/~tcl). Steps in Making Linen
1. Pull the flax plants, roots and all. That's to preserve the total length of the fiber and prevent discolored ends.
2. Dry them out in the sun.
3. Cut, comb, or pull off the seeds and/or seed heads from the stems. You treat flax differently from wheat in that you don't beat off the seeds.
4. Soak flax in water or leave out in rainy weather for several weeks while the woody stems surrounding the fibers rot. This step is called "retting." The soaking rots the pith and "bark." How long it takes to ret depends on your climate. In a warm climate and warm weather, 3 weeks can be enough. In a cooler area it may take 1V2 months or longer. Your flax-soaking vat should be of wood or clay construction because metal drums will color the fiber. That doesn't matter if the flax is to be used for rough sacking material or rope, but it does matter if you want to make something nice from it.
5. When the retting is finished, again dry the fibers.
6. Soften, or "break," the fibers on a tool called a "flaxbrake." In this step you break the rotted pith out of the stem and knock loose the "bark" with a wooden mallet or stone or with a stick across the edge of a wooden bench. Starting at one end of a handful or bundle, beat and turn the bundle, working toward the middle. Then change ends and finish pounding the bundle, working from the end to the middle again.
7. Scrap the fibers with a "swingling knife." This causes the woody stem pieces around the fibers to loosen and drop to the ground.
8. Handful by handful, straighten the fibers, simultaneously removing the remaining stem pieces by combing with a steel-toothed brush called the "hetchel." Or comb fibers with regular wool-carding combs or even hair-type combs.
9. You'll end up with short fibers called "tow" and long fibers called "streak." These fine, fluffy linen fibers are now ready to be spun into yarn on the spinning wheel. 10. Weave the linen and make tablecloths! Or make rope and sacks.
Afterthoughts. Phyllis Friesen wrote: "The biggest problem in raising your own flax is getting the proper seed. I carry the flax fiber in 'strick' [a bundle], along with silk fibers and cocoons for spinning, in my small mail-order business. I really started spinning flax and silk the hard way by learning alone. I knew no one spinning such fibers so had no one to turn to for advice. I have learned it's much easier to separate your strick of flax into about 4 or 5 bundles and then lay one of these bundles in your lap and proceed to spin the thread by pulling fibers from the end, rather than to tie it to the distaff as all the books recommend. Then you dip your fingers in water and keep the thread wet as you spin. Just a few fibers at a time are all you need. Then when you ply it, you do not need to use water. I used a cute gourd to make a water container for my wheel and tied it on with a thong."
poppy: The poppy varieties are species of Papaver. They are related to the thistle and handle infertile soils well. Poppies overwinter and grow large, deep taproots that break up subsoil. Poppies make a great green manure because their taproots are tender and rot easily and their aboveground vegetation is also tender and so can be easily cultivated into the ground.
Or you can raise this crop for the seeds. The yield will be about 1,500 lb. per acre of dry land. Poppy seed is easy to harvest by hand. If you want to make oil from it, handpressing can accomplish the extraction. Your yield will be about half oil. You can make a sort of poppy "tahini" by grinding the seed in a blender. The result will be a sprightly tasting, mayonnaise-ish salad dressing. Poppies can be grown in tough northern climates, planted in the fall, and overwintered. For much more detail, see Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. rape (Cañóla): Rape is a leafy brassica (Brassica napus), so similar to mustard greens you grow it the same way; in fact, it is sometimes incorrectly called mustard greens. Here in Idaho there are beautiful fields of golden yellow rape that will end up in birdseed mixtures. It holds up under hot weather better than regular mustard (Brassica júncea). It's also a wonderful forage crop for sheep or pigs.
My pig-raising friend Stephen wrote me: "Canola is grown extensively in Canada as an oilseed crop: hence canola oil. It has great ability to draw bees. It blossoms for a month, during which time the bees have a feast. It grows fast and chokes out weeds too. If you decide to plant canola seed in rows, it will take about V2 oz. per 100-foot row. Or you can broadcast it at the rate of 3 oz. per 1,000 square feet. Plant it about 3 weeks before you buy your pigs, and they can start grazing on it right away. You can also plant some in the garden and save seed from it to grow for sprouts." Or press the seed to make "canola" oil. Rape is available from Johnny's.
safflower: Carthamus tinctorius, a.k.a. "Mexican saffron," is a Compositae (daisy) family member, a relative of the chicories and the edible chrysanthemum (see "The Non-Brassica Greens"). It's also known as "false saffron" because the bright dye you can make from its large red or orange flower heads can be used, like saffron, to color food— and to make rouge! But safflower has additional uses too. It is widely grown in order to harvest the oil-rich seeds (about 25 percent by weight). Safflower oil is a low cholesterol source of fat, rich in linoleic acid and vitamin E. The meal left over after the oil is extracted is good livestock feed. The seeds are very small, like tiny sunflower seeds. There are several varieties, some more thistlelike and spiny than others. You can order it from Redwood City or DeGiorgi.
Climate and Growth. The flowers do well in a somewhat dry climate such as in the western Plains states. Plant in any soil but in full sun. Wait until ground is warm to plant (March to May), and keep moist. It takes 120 days for the seeds to mature. Plant 1 inch deep, rows about 18 to 24 inches apart. Safflower is ordinarily grown as a large-scale field crop. Wait for virtually all the heads to be dry before you cut. Then use the directions for grain harvesting in the beginning of Chapter 3 to cut and thresh. sesame: Sesamum orientale (a.k.a. Sesamum indicum) flowers and then makes the delicious seeds used in baked goods. Sesame is as tender as cotton and does best in southern states. It's an annual that grows up to 2 feet high. Its flowers are pale rose or white. It's grown for the seed crop, which is eaten either raw, roasted, or crushed to get the oil. Sesame oil is great for soap making as well as for cooking. Plant sometime during March to May in full sun. Sesame seed needs to go into well-tilled soil that has had both manure and lime added. It's available from Redwood City.
SESAME SEED CRUST FOR ANY BREAD Before you bake your bread, take some warm water and work it into the top of the dough-loaf until it's goopy. Then work in as many sesame seeds as you want and bake.
TAHINI Blend sesame seeds into a smooth paste of mixed seed and oil. The oil will rise to the top after it sets a while, it can be used like any cooking oil. Use the solid portion like peanut butter or to thicken a salad dressing.
W> TAHINI-YOGURT SALAD DRESSING Combine 2 T. vinegar, I crushed garlic clove, 2 T. tahini, juice from half a lemon, and salt and/or pepper to taste. Now gradually mix in about 2A c. unfavored yogurt Good with strong-tasting greens. sunflower: Helianthus annus, native to the Americas, is a wonderful crop for hot, dry climates, high altitudes, low-temperature regions, and/or poor soils (but the more fertile the soil, the bigger your yield). The sunflower is great winter food for man and beast because it is one of the few plant sources of vitamin D! Sunflower seeds can be used as a grain substitute in livestock food, can add protein to human diets, and can be pressed for cooking oil. Crushed petals will dye yellow, roasted seed makes a "coffee," and stems provide a silky fiber (process like flax) or livestock forage (but animals like them better if mixed with molasses). Consider growing them as your "grain" if you live where corn can't make it, for you can substitute sunflower seeds for grain in poultry or other livestock rations or grow them for compost making. They do well as a broadcasted field crop. Yield will be 10 to 80 bushels per acre (the per-bushel weight for sunflower seeds is 30 lb.) depending on soil fertility, weed control, and water.
Varieties. All kinds are easy to grow. Their sizes range from 5 inches to 12 feet tall, with flowers from 2 inches to 2 feet in diameter. Small sunflowers are ornamentals, mid-size ones are grown commercially for mechanical harvesting, and giant ones (Mammoth Russian is the classic) are grown for home gardens because of their big seed heads and spectacular appearance. Choose between short- and long-season specialists and between "eating" and oil (longer to mature) types. Cook's Garden offers the largest selection in any U.S. catalog. Abundant Life, Burpee, Comstock, William Dam, DeGiorgi, Nichols, Redwood City, etc., offer one or more varieties.
Planting. To grow enough sunflower seed to press out a year's supply of oil for a family (about 3 gal.), you'd need maybe 3,000 square feet planted to sunflowers. (You'd have 20 lb. of seed pulp left over.) Sun is vital to sunflowers, so put them in an open, sunny place where these tall plants won't cause a problem by shading other plants—the north end of your garden, for instance. They prefer light, well-drained soil, pH 6.0-7.5 (slightly acid to alkaline). Plant as early as possible (longer growing means bigger yield), 2 weeks before the last frost.
For an even earlier crop, plant earlier and then again 2 weeks later, hoping for the best; or plant inside and transplant once plants have 4 leaves and are frost-hardy. Plant 4-8 lb. per acre for a field crop. Plant seeds Vi inch deep, 6 inches apart and rows 24-48 inches apart depending on variety. Thin as needed for the size of your variety when 3 or 4 inches high (thin to 4 feet apart for the biggest ones). About 8 to 10 weeks after planting, the flowers will begin to open and follow the sun from morning to night. If you are growing a giant, it may need staking. Harvesting. Leave the sunflower heads on the plant until they are really dry. If your sunny weather holds, leaving them on until after the first frost won't hurt them, and you can let them ripen on the stalks. If birds are a problem, protect the heads with plastic mesh or cheesecloth tied loosely over but closed at the bottom to catch dropping seed.
Signs that sunflowers are ready to cut: • The back of the head looks brown; there's no sign of green there anymore.
• The head appears dry.
• Florets in the middle of the flower are shriveled.
• The stem turns yellow near the flower's base.
• The whole head starts to noticeably droop.
• About half of the yellow petals have fallen off.
• The seeds are dry but have not yet fallen off.
Make sure you have sunflowers out of the garden before the heavy fall rains. Sunflowers need from 1 to 3 weeks of drying (more is better), either on or off the plant. Heavy frosts do not harm ripening seeds, meaning that your "growing season" can last that much longer. Cut the heads with 1 to 3 feet of stalk attached.
More Drying. Hang them by their stems separately if you have room, in bundles for a big crop. Hang in a dry, warm, airy place. Or spread them out on a wall or roof—seeds up —in the sunshine for a week (avoid birds and rodents). If outside, cover with cheesecloth or netting to protect from birds; put cloth or paper underneath to catch dropped seeds. Let the seeds finish ripening and drying. Check occasionally to make sure they aren't molding! In damp weather, molding is unavoidable if you try to dry outdoors. Getting Seed off the Head. You can tell when heads are completely dry: The seed easily rubs out of the flower head. You can rub by hand or brush out the seed by means of a wire brush, curry comb, or fish scaler. Or remove the seeds by rubbing over a coarse (1-inch-mesh) screen that is fastened over a container. Large-scale growers use a regular thresher or combine at the soybean setting. Storage. Storing seeds in the shell protects the vitamin content. If the seeds are still a bit damp, dry them some more.
Sunflower seed must be very, very dry (below 11 percent moisture) to store successfully. Store sufficiently dried seeds in small bags made of porous material; store in dry areas safe from bugs and rodents. Turn them over twice a week. Seeds must be drier yet to be successfully kept in glass or metal because the seeds are so likely to mold in that type of container. Don't try storing large quantities of sunflower seeds in a heap; these will also likely spoil. Sunflower seeds make good sprouts!
Roasted/Unshelled/Salted Seeds. Put the seeds in the bottom of a 3-gal. crock or some such. Add water to fill and half a box of salt (or use 2 gal. water and a 26-oz. box of salt). Stir and then leave to soak for a week. Now spread the seeds on a tray and roast in your oven at 350°F, stirring at least every 10 minutes to get the damp ones evenly distributed. It will take about an hour to dry them all through. Test to make sure, observing and cracking samples. The development of a whitish color shows they are getting done, and inside the shell they should be dry instead of still soggy. Watch carefully to prevent burning. After the seeds come out of the oven, they are done and ready to eat. Store in a cool, dry place.
Roasted/Shelled/Salted Seeds. Preheat oven to 350°F Spread seeds on tray and bake 10 minutes. After they are cool, remove shells. Spread shelled seeds on the tray, sprinkle with salt, and bake again for 10 minutes. Cool. Store in container with tight lid.
Shelling. Sunflower seeds are good food for livestock as well as people. Animals will happily eat them whole. For people, shell by hand one by one—or get a grinder that can handle shelling sunflower seeds in bulk (Lehman's carries one: 888438-5346; www.Lehmans.com).
Recipe Ideas. To press the seeds for oil, see "Home-Pressed Oil from Seeds" earlier in the "Flower Seeds" section. Sunflower seeds are high in nutrition and protein and worthy of main-dish status. Here are 2 such recipes.
<i> VEGETABLE SEED ROAST Combine 4 medium-sized grated carrots, 6 sliced medium-sized boiled potatoes, 4 minced small onions, I T. chopped parsley, Vi c. chopped celery, A c. chopped spinach or beet tops, I c. chopped cabbage, I c. chopped sunflower seeds (or leave whole), IA2 c. whole wheat bread crumbs, A2 c. milk, 4 eggs, and I minced clove garlic or a little garlic salt. Mix well. Place in oiled pan. Dot top with butter or oil. Bake 2 hours at 250° F.
& SUNFLOWER LOAF Combine 2 c. cooked brown rice, I c. chopped sunflower seeds, A2 c. whole wheat bread crumbs (toasted), soy milk to moisten, 2 T. soy sauce, 2 T. chopped onion, 2 T. diced celery, and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly. If too dry, add in more soy milk Bake in 325-350°F oven for 45 minutes.
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