A Little Story About Sunflowers

We are in the Southwest of France and have done a lot of driving on small roads between lovely and interesting villages. The fields we have passed have been given mostly to sunflowers, wheat, corn and grapes with sunflowers and wheat fields easily outnumbering fields of corn and grapes.

We love to come across huge fields of sunflowers on a sunny day. This is simply gorgeous and is unlike anything we remember seeing in the U.S.

Here She Is

We Love Them

Whenever we can, we pull over to photograph a field. Sometimes it has been dangerous!

They're Gorgeous

Sunflower Fields are a Real Highlight of Our Trip

Fields more green than yellow? Sun flowers point at the sun. In the morning the flowers point toward the morning sun. In the late afternoon they point differently, toward the setting sun. We knew this before seeing the fields. But not from prior observation - that wouldn't be us. We heard a "puzzler" on the "Car Talk" radio show on NPR. The puzzler was based on a driver seeing yellow in the morning and green in the evening.

Based on what we knew of sunflowers from the ones that have grown in our garden at home, we assumed that the products of the fields were sunflower oil and seeds. But one thing bothered us. We saw many fields that were green - the flowers had not yet opened. We guessed that this was do to the green fields being planted later in the season but also thought sunlight, availability of water, and soil quality might have something to do with it. By now you must be pretty sure that we are city folk, not country people.

Recently we followed signs to a village with a "fete" just to see what a festival would be like. It turned out to be a carnival of little interest to us. But nearby was a large field of completely green sunflowers that is pictured below. Sueann started digging the roots of one of the plants to see if it had a sun choke as the ones at home do. Seemingly from nowhere a man appears. I ask him if this was his field. It was, but he seemed very relaxed and we began to talk with him. The farmer named "Irving" (we think) is pictured below. In our very broken French and Irv's very broken English we learned a few things:

  1. These sunflowers are grown for oil only. The seeds they produce are used to produce the oil and are not marketed.
  2. They do not have anything edible in their root systems, no sun chokes.
  3. The reason some fields are yellow and some are green is because green fields were planted later.
  4. If conditions are reasonable, it takes about 4 months to grow a good crop of French sunflowers.

We wondered why some fields were all green. Are we dummies?

"Irving" the farmer turned out to be a swell guy.

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