The Strange History of the Sunflower

Sunflowers were grown as a food crop thousands of years ago in North America, although they looked very different from modern flowers. Sunflower seeds were exported to Europe in the 16th century as ornamental plants. But it took Russian intervention to make it the huge oil-producing plant it is today.
During Lent, the Russian Orthodox Church forbad its adherents from consuming oil. However, the oil of the sunflower was not on the prohibited list and the Russian people jumped on Peter’s bandwagon wholeheartedly. By the third decade of the nineteenth century sunflower oil was manufactured in Russia on a large and highly lucrative commercial scale.

Read about how the sunflower made its way back to America as a crop in this post at Kuriositas. Link -via the Presurfer

(Image credit: Flickr user Allen Hsu)

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Sunflowers always remind me of the Larry Niven book about ringworld where there were these vast fields of mechanical sunflowers whose blossoms were mirrors...and they'd focus the sun's rays on whatever flew overhead to shoot it down...
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So that is why we have SO MANY here in Baja California! About a hundred (or more?) years ago lots of Russian people settled here and they must have brought the flowers with them. Now there are a few little ones that grow wild and people still will grow a patch of them, likely just to sell the seeds.
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