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Uses of sunflowers over the years

Making It Grow Minute Extra logo

Annual sunflowers, important in the cut flower industry, are grown commercially for seeds eaten by humans and birds, and for cooking oil. Sunflowers are one of the few important food crops that originated in north America. Researcher have determined that over three thousand years indigenous people consistently saved the largest seeds for planting and increased the size of the seeds by a thousand percent. Sunflowers have almost equal amounts of protein as heart healthy fats, are high in fiber, and vitamin e and were easy to store and transport. Originally from the south western states, indigenous people in Mexico and eventually what is now the entire United States ev used sunflowers as a major dietary staple, as well as in medicinal and cultural arenas. The seeds provided yellow, black and purple dyes to color baskets and for ritual body painting.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.