Question: I have tried to harvest sunflower seeds, but small worms or fungi take over. How should I harvest and preserve these seeds? –Yonkers, NY
Answer: When the seeds are formed but still immature, wrap each sunflower head in cheesecloth or a brown paper bag to prevent birds from feeding on them. When the flower heads turn brown (with no trace of green on the underside) and the seeds are well formed almost to the outer edge, you may harvest the entire head. Cut the stem several inches below the head so you can hang it upside down in a dry, airy spot. Or lay the heads on suspended screening outdoors in the sun. Protect them from birds and rodents by covering them with cheesecloth. In about two weeks, the seeds should separate from the flower head with a flick of the thumb. If they are still a little damp, spread them on a screen to dry completely (again covering them with cheesecloth). Mold and larvae develop in damp seed. When the seeds are fully dry, store them in a cool, dry place.