We plant three crops for oils at Aanandaa - Mustard. Sesame and Sunflower. Between these three, we ensure we have oils to cook in, throughout the year. I believe Sunflower can be grown any time of the year, but we usually plant it at the end of the wheat harvest, that is around March. In the past we have experimented with sprinkling the sunflower seeds within the wheat crop, just before we harvest the latter., However, this has not yielded good results.
The crop requires cool climate for germination. And then warm and sunny days for growth and flowering. Unseasonal rain and high humidity can result in poor seed production.
Apart from being easy to sow, manage and harvest, Sunflower makes a very pretty feature at the farm. A field of sunflowers standing erect facing the sun is perhaps one of the most joyful sights among crops.
In Sunflower farming, birds are the main pests! However, we are usually more delighted at the presence of these beautiful birds, rather then their nuisance value. We are happy to share our produce with other animals, and welcome them to our farm.
The sunflower crop is ready to harvest when the back of the flower turns yellowish-brown usually by June, just before the rains. All heads may not be ready to harvest at one time, so they are hand picked in batches and collected on a tarpal to dry in the sun. Simple threshing with a stick yields the seed. The seeds are collected and taken to the oil mill for extraction of oil.
We like our sunflower oil minimally processed, and enjoy it for cooking.