Jean Stark's sunflower garden is joy manifested in many ways. Located on a hillside adjacent to her home off Fairview Road, the sunflowers which grew in her garden this year and every year since 2009 are to Stark, "fun to walk among, an attraction from the road and a surprising color and size experience," considering that she had 30 or more varieties.
Some of the varieties included in her garden named, "The Elisha Garden," after the father of a gentleman who worked for her are Autumn Beauty, Aztec Gold Hybrid, Chianti Hybrid, Double Dandy, Dwarf Sunspot and Earth Walker.
Stark said of the garden, which also hosts a dazzling and profuse collection of among others, Dahlias and Cosmos, "The Elisha Garden was my first naming garden and came from the father of a gentleman working for me at the time. He was from Brazil, knew his father was dying of cancer, had visited him recently and then got the phone call of notification of his death while standing with me working in the garden."
She designed the beds for sunflower planting from the beginning of her meadow garden and is enamored by them because, "They are very easy to plant in large areas and produce such a fabulous product for the effort involved." And now, in October, as the blooms have faded, Stark looks to the spring and her next harvest .
She said, "I always love being with my flowers and have all the best intentions of making next year's garden picture-perfect with no weeds, manicured edges, solid vegetation. But I realize it will happen the way it does and I will enjoy it as much as I did this year's."
While Stark does not collect preserve the seeds for next year's planting, Sonia Mullally Communications Director of the National Sunflower Association saidthe heads will be ready to harvest when the back of the head has turned brown. In northern areas, this might be after the first killing freeze. Snip the head off the plant and rub the seeds out by hand. If birds or other pests are attacking , cut the heads and hang them like onions often are dried. To ensure that the seeds are mature, look for the back of the head to be a banana yellow to turning brown before harvest. She suggested sealing seeds in an air tight container to preserve, but said it is critical they have dried completely before storing them.
Submitted by Donna Czarkowski, owner of Barn Chicks Brand Granola available at Cloe & Company on State Street in Clarks Summit
3 cups organic rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 1/2 cups organic raw sunflower seeds
¾ cup honey
¼ cup organic raw agave or Grade B maple syrup
2/3 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
Non-stick cooking spray
Heat the oven to 350*. Place the seeds on baking sheet, coat with non-stick spray, sprinkle with salt. Bake for 8 minutes, do not burn seeds. Set seeds aside. In a saucepan combine honey, agave or maple and cinnamon. Heat to a very slow boil until syrup thickens. Stir constantly. Once boiled remove from heat and cool slightly. In a large bowl combine oats, ground flax, toasted seeds and sea salt. Pour syrup mixture over oats and blend well. Transfer mixture to 9- inch by13 -inch baking dish coated with non-stick spray, flattening oats to an even level. Cut through the bars with a sharp knife and bake in 325 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Flip bars gently after 5 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely, wrap in wax paper and store in a kitchen container.
You do not have to bake the bars once cut them, but you must store them in refrigerator or freezer.
** Add 1/2 cup dried cranberries or currants if you like.