The botanical name derives from the Greek, helios (sun) and anthos (flower).
The wild sunflower was native to North and Central America. Archeological findings show that sunflowers were grown in the Mississippi region and around Mexico City some 4,500 years ago. In 1552, seeds of the sunflower were brought from America to Europe by Spanish sailors. The main growing areas today are China, the US (Dakota), Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Russia and Hungary.
The sunflower is an annual herbaceous plant with a height of 1-2 meters and which is rooted up to 2 meters deep. It needs deep, nutrient-rich soil, sufficient water and sun. The pollination of the flowers is done by different insects. The flowering period is from July to September. As the flower heads turn to sunlight, the sunflower is referred to as a ‘compass plant’.
First, the sunflower was used as an ornamental plant. From the seventeenth century, the cores were used for baked goods or roasted as a substitute for coffee and drinking chocolate. Only since the nineteenth century have sunflower seeds been used as an oilseed and for cooking or as an addition to salads. Today, sunflower seeds are used in great quantities in baked goods such as breads and rolls. Sunflower seeds are the most commonly used oilseed in the bakery industry.
Sunflower seeds contain over 90% of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B, vitamin A, vitamin F, carotene, calcium, iodine and magnesium, making them a very healthy food. There are four types of sunflower seeds: confectionary, oil seed (bakery). animal food and ornament.