Using Sunflowers for Survival

The sunflower is one of the most beautiful and cheery plants on the planet. Their bright yellow petals surrounding a circular head give them an appearance like the sun itself.

Which makes sense, because this is a plant that responds to the sun with the best of them. And much like the sun, they can provide energy.

Some sunflowers are short, while others grow very tall due to long stalks. And some even have leaves that are closer to red than yellow.

It’s said that sunflowers originated around 1,000 B.C. in the Americas. They’ve been the subject of many drawings and photographs through the centuries.

Nature has blessed us with the sunflower, which can brighten the day of anyone who grows them or even passes by one.

But sunflowers are good for much more than lifting your spirits. They can be a big help when it comes to day-to-day living or surviving a crisis.

Let’s take a look at five usages:

General health

Many people enjoy munching on sunflower seeds for the taste. But the seeds have nutritional value as well. Including Vitamins E, B1 and C, plus magnesium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, folate, niacin and much more.

Some folks like to make teas from sunflower seeds and leaves. They claim those teas are helpful for lung and breathing ailments, sore throats and inflammation. Others use sunflower roots to make a soaking liquid for aching joints and arthritis.

Making a shelter

When sunflower stalks dry out, they become nearly as hard as wood. They are certainly hard enough to help form a durable shelter that will protect you from the elements. Once you’ve uprooted them – which will keep them from soaking up moisture from the ground – keep them away from any other moisture.

As with shelters made with tree branches and leaves, cover the ground first if you can to keep it dry. Don’t build your shelter in a ravine, a ditch or anywhere rainwater or snow can accumulate.

Making fabric

Clothes represent one of the biggest markups in retail. When they wear out, it can really be felt in the pocketbook. Making your own clothes – now and during an emergency – could save you plenty of money.

Sunflower stems can be used for making fabric. You want to remove the long fibers running up and down the stems and use them as thread that you can weave into fabric.

These fibers don’t want to come out without a fight. So, after you slice the stems, soak them for about a week. That should loosen up the fibers, but they still may have bits of wood and pulp attached to them, which need to be removed before you can use the fibers as thread or yarn.

Cooking oil

You can make a cooking oil with sunflower seeds that is healthier than most store-bought cooking oils. In order to make one cup of oil, you should gather three to six large heads of sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds are ideal for this task, but conventional sunflower seeds will also work.

After removing the hulls from the seeds, grind up the kernels until a fine paste results. You don’t need water for this. Roast the seeds for 20 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring every few minutes. Run the seeds through a strainer, or use an oil press.

Making paper

If a disaster causes stores to close, you’re not going to be able to find stationery. So, you might have to make your own. Which is what some folks like to do anyway. A sunflower provides the ingredients to do exactly that.

Remove pulp from the sunflower stems, then mix it with water and washing soda. Boil this mixture to break down the cellulose. Grind up the pulp in a blender to smooth it out, and spread the wet pulp in a thin layer on screens, then let it dry.

The resulting parchment may be darker than you’d like. If so, set it out in the sun and let the color fade to an off-white. Bleach or hydrogen peroxide can also be used for the same purpose, but don’t use too much.

Sunflower survival

So, now we know how to use sunflowers for various purposes, including survival. But what about the sunflower’s survival? Glad you asked.

While we love sunflowers for their beauty, insects and wildlife like them a little too much as well. When the seedlings first start to develop, these critters like to sink their teeth into them.

Rabbits, ants and a wide variety of other pests can destroy a sunflower plant just when it’s starting to make its mark in the world.

Here are three tips for keeping your sunflower plants safe from their enemies.

  • Use a mesh blanket or a bird’s netting over the plant until it has reached a height about 18 inches. Most critters are only interested in the leaves when they are young and soft.
  • Cut the top few inches off a plastic bottle and place it over the seedlings. This will create a greenhouse effect while simultaneously keeping rodents away.
  • Smaller pests such as slugs won’t be stopped by netting or a plastic bottle. So, mix water with a little dish soap and spray your sunflower plant as it starts to grow. That should keep those slugs away.

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