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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Ted gets sunny


… oh how I wish that meant golden rays of sunlight had at last begun to fall upon London ... but alas and alack no such thing has happened to-date. So I decided that I needed to find my own “sun” and settled upon … yep you guessed it … sunflowers.

Sunflowers have long been considered symbols of happiness - perhaps because you can’t help but smile and feel just a little bit better when you look upon them.  The artist Vincent Van Gough certainly felt that way and some of his most famous works are the four sunflower paintings he created in 1888 to decorate the room of his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin. He had intended to paint a lot more to cover all the walls in the room, but he was a little slow that year, and was over taken by the invention of wallpaper … and then there was that little incident with his ear that wasn’t covered under public health insurance … but I digress …

Sunflowers aka Helianthus named by the Greeks for Helios “sun” and Anthos “flower” are joined by about 70 of their cousins in their particular plant genus, including that lovely edible little number the Jerusalem artichoke. The French call sunflowers “Tournesol” the Italians “Girasole” literally turn to the sun.  And turn to the sun they do each day until they reach maturity, when they pretty much settle on facing east.  This turning causes their tubers to twist and become quite knobbly - hence the shape of the Jerusalem artichoke.  

Sunflowers are native to the Americas but quickly found favour in the old world too, with their versatility in both food (huge in the pet food industry as well - yep bird feed) and oil production. The major producers are Russia, which narrowly pips the whole of EU production, followed by Ukraine, Argentina, China, India and the USA.  What really surprised me, given that sunflowers while accepting of many soil types like lots of sunshine and warmth in their growing season, was that the UK accounts for over half of the EU production … and then I realised that they are of course grown in Kent - the centre of UK horticulture, and the area most likely to get sun if anywhere does.

Sunflower seeds are a low calorie nutritious food that are rich in vitamin E, B1, and a whole bunch of trace elements that we need like magnesium, selenium and folate. And if that’s not enough the flowers are bright, sunny, and cheery, and if that doesn’t brighten you up then I don’t know what will …  

3 comments:

bill burke said...

Nice sunflower! Hopefully the real sun will return :)

Sharon Anck said...

I do love a wonderful group of sunflowers and will buy some every now and then to cheer up the dining room table. I think I've only seen them growing in a field once in my life and that was many years ago. They make quite a sight.

William Kendall said...

They reach their peak here in August.

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