The Q&A Archives: Ants In Sunflower Seeds

Question: We have grown some beautiful sunflowers. My sons and I were hoping to dry out the seeds and plant more and/or eat the seeds; however we have noticed that ants are opening the seeds and eating out the insides. What is the best method to get rid of the ants? and What is the best method to dry out the seeds? (do we need to cut the heads off the plants first??)

Answer: If the seedheads are ready to harvest,a quick initial rinse and then the following salt water recipe will clean the ants off the seeds. If you plan to plant the seeds, then certainly you will not want to salt and cook them, but a quick dip in water should rinse off the ants. I would suspect that the ants are not really the culprit in this case, however, so look carefully for weevils and pests of that sort, too.

Wait until the petals fall and
the heads begin to droop. You'll notice the back of the seed heads will begin to turn
yellow instead of green. Cut them along with about 2' of stem and hang them upside down
to dry in a dry, well-ventilated place such as a garage or attic, until fully dry. Remove the
seeds by rubbing two heads together, or by using a stiff brush. Spread out the seeds until
fully dry and store in plastic bags (make sure there is no condensation on the bag or they will rot) , or soak overnight in a strong salt solution, drain, spread
on a shallow baking sheet, and roast at 200F degrees until crisp. The recipes vary on the
amount of salt to use. Try a half cup to a quart of water - if that's not salty enough, add
more for your next batch. Depending upon size, your sunflower seeds can take 30
minutes to 3 hours to dry in the oven. Test often by taking a few seeds out of the oven,
allowing to cool, and crunching between your teeth. You'll know when they're crispy dry.
Store in an airtight container.

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