Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunflower Sunday

Oil painting by Robert Panitzsch (1943)
I love sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).  Their bold, yet simple blooms reflect the celebratory and carefree attitude of summer.

Having viewed many photographs of sunflower fields in Provence and famous paintings of sunflowers by artists such as Monet and Van Gogh, I just assumed sunflowers were indigenous to Europe.   I even have a vintage Danish painting of sunflowers in my home.  So I was surprised to learn recently that sunflowers originated in America.

American Indians first domesticated the wildflower into a  single headed plant, using it for flour, oil, dye and medicine.  Spanish explorers brought it to Europe around 1500.  Later it was heavily commercialized in Russia.  Russian seeds made their way back to America in the 19th century.

I don't grow them in my garden since cut sunflowers are a staple of the local farmers' markets starting in July.  On the back roads of the Hamptons, you often see fields of them growing, waiting to be picked for the weekend crowds.

Their season, like summer, is all too short.  When the flower buckets in the markets change from sunflowers to dahlias, you know fall is around the corner.

Fresh-picked flowers and vegetables

Helianthus Annuus fill a field

No comments: