The Black Sunflower is a medium sized, perennial forb with edible roots and seeds.
The roots have a rich earthy flavor that gets sweeter when cooked and were used by Native Americans. The seeds are similar to commercial sunflower seeds and can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can also be ground into a flour and added to soups as a thickener or cereal flour to make bread. The roots can also furnish a poultice that is externally applied to bruised or swollen limbs.
The Black Sunflower is an beautiful and fragrant, perennial sunflower that often grows together in dense stands. The flowers, which can appear singly or in clusters, are a bright yellow color and are usually about 2 feet tall. The elongated leaves are dark green and rough to the touch. They will look magnificent underneath an open canopy tree like the California Black Oak, Buffaloberry, or the California Foothill Pine.
Environment and Culture
The Black Sunflower is at home in meadows, oak savannas, and open canopy coniferous forests east of the Cascades. Deer like to browse on the young shoots, leaves and flowers. Many species of birds highly prize the seeds.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
The Black Sunflower is a hardy and unfussy plant that will take good care of itself once it has been well established. They make an excellent understory plant and should be especially considered for open sunny patches under oak trees, plant them with Indian Rice Grass or Wild Rye. Harvest the roots in winter and spring, cook well and peel the outer skin on older roots. Harvest the seeds after the plant has dried down in late summer or fall. If you want your patch to expand, harvest from the center and knock the seeds down on the edges so you can harvest and propagate at the same time, easy!