These sunny giants bring old-fashioned charm and a bounty of edible seeds. Here's how to grow and harvest them.
1. Cover flower heads. To keep birds and squirrels from feeding on seeds, cover each flower head with burlap, cheesecloth, or a paper bag as soon as the petals begin to fall.
2. Harvest seeds. When seed shells are plump ― but before they dry out and begin to loosen ― cut off the flower head. Store at room temperature in a dark place until shells are completely dry (three to four weeks). To remove the seeds, firmly massage flower head with gloved hands.
3. Roast seeds. In a 4-quart pot filled with 2 quarts water, add ¾ cup salt and 3 cups seeds. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Drain seeds and dry well on paper towels. In a 300° oven, bake seeds on a large cookie sheet, stirring frequently until crisp, about 1 hour. Remove seeds from oven, let cool, and store in an airtight container.