I discovered a new happy place tonight – a field of cultivated sunflowers is growing just to the west of our house. And for good measure, a few wild sunflowers are growing along the roadside. Sunflowers make me smile.
According to the National Sunflower Association, the wild sunflower is native to North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia. It was only recently that the sunflower plant returned to North America to become a cultivated crop. But it was the American Indian who first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant with a variety of seed colors including black, white, red, and black/white striped.
Did you know there are 70 species of sunflower? Most people love the sunflower for its vibrant color and beauty, but sunflowers are also an important food source. There are two species of commercial sunflower, and they are grown from the Dakotas south to Texas. Sunflower oil is a valued and healthy vegetable oil and sunflower seeds are enjoyed as a healthy, tasty snack and nutritious ingredient to many foods. Sunflower seeds are also a favorite of wild birds (and squirrels, the industrious little buggers).
Bushy tailed critters aside, seeing a golden field of blooming sunflowers stretched out before me is the perfect end to another great day here in Eastern Wyoming.