Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Helianthus annuus - Sunflowers

Common sunflowers, nothing fancy; the ones that come up in odd places in the garden where the chipmunks have buried seeds or the birds have dropped one. I have much more luck with critter planted sunflowers than with ones I plant myself. I think that the critters like to plant them, but also like to dig up ones that other people plant. Just my theory, but it would explain why theirs come up and mine don't often do so.
The common sunflower is a native plant almost everywhere in the United States.
In Jacobs' Index of Plants he writes "the leaves are astringent; the seeds are diuretic and yield a fixed oil ... The roots were used for snakebite and as a dye. The sunflower is used for coughs, pulmonary affections, dysentery, inflammation of the bladder and kidneys, and as an antimalarial."
An old recipe using sunflower seeds as a cough remedy: Boil 2 ounces of the seed in a quart of water (doesn't say if they are hulled or not). Boil down to a little less than a pint and strain. Add 6 ounces of gin and 6 ounces of sugar. To be taken three or four times daily in a dose of one to two teaspoonfuls for pulmonary affections and coughs. In the same way, seeds browned in the oven and then used to make the unfusion were said to provide relief for whooping cough.
The Journal of Lewis and Clark had an entry in July 1805 noting the use of sunflower seed to make bread and thicken soup.
After writing about a lot of medicinal plants where I felt the need to warn about these being old and questionable recipes, this is one that seems quite simple and probably safe. I have no idea, however, if it actually works, though I might be willing to give it a try.
As far as gardening here in the hollow - it's been a strange garden time. After one of the wettest years on record, we seem to be having a winter without horrible cold and, at least so far, no snow. Some is predicted in the next day or so, 2-6 inches, so it may actually start to look more like January here. We have witchhazels and winter honeysuckles blooming; daffodil foliage is up a couple of inches in many places. Luckily things bloom in the greenhouse this time of year so we don't get too crazy. Right now there is a lovely tiny gardenia covered with blooms that is making the whole place smell wonderful. In any event, in 2 months or so spring will be here with crocus and other early spring blooms starting. I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for the daily grind of weeding, but I'm sure ready for warmer weather and the outside being green instead of brown.

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