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Sunflower

Sunflower (lat. Helianthus) refers to a plant genus of a starwort family.

The most known starwort species is oilseed sunflower (Helianthus annuus). This is the species of plants being cultivated almost all over the world, is applied to production of so popular sunflower oil, while some sunflowers (for example, acutifoliate Helianthus argophyllus) has only decorative function.

Probably, everyone at least once in life has sawn the well-known oilseed sunflower - an annual plant with thick caulis in height of up to 4-5 m and one or several yellow heads always turning following the sun.
The sunflower fruit consists of a pericarp (rind) and the white seed (kernel) covered with a seed cover. 100 grams of roasted sunflower seed kernels contain 20.7 g of proteins, 3.4 g of carbohydrate and 52.9 g of fats.

Sunflower history

The North America is considered as the native land of a sunflower. Archaeological evidences confirm that the sunflower was cultivated in territory of modern states Arizona and New Mexico approximately in 3000 year BC.

In many American Indian rituals the sunflower was idolized as the Sun God, it refers, for example, to Inca in Peru and Aztecs and Othomy in Mexico. Indians ranked sunflower fruits as special dainty dishes, - for real, Indians necessarily crushed them before their use transforming in some kind of "flour" by consistency. Some archeologists are assured that Indians even have taught themselves to manufacture the first analogue of sunflower oil using it in bread baking, and also as a cosmetic agent for greasing of a skin and a hair.

The sunflower was delivered to Europe by the Spanish conquerors of America in 1500, and initially it served as an adornment plant, also being applied in the medical purposes from time to time.

First in Europe who has taken thought on possibility to make sunflower oil were Englishmen. But its massed production has begun in Russia where the sunflower has appeared thanks to Peter I (it has brought it from Holland).
Strangely enough, sunflower oil industrial production has been initiated by a serf Bokarev in 1828. Bokarev was familiar with manufacture of linseed and hemp oils and has decided to test an analogous method for reception of sunflower oil. In 1833 a merchant Papushin with assistance of Bokarev has established the first company on producing of sunflower oil.

At the end of XIX century the Russian emigrants have brought sunflower oil production practices to the USA and Canada. Shortly the USA has become the leader in this field.

Sunflower application

Most of all oilseed sunflowers are used for sunflower oil production. Hydrogenation of the sunflower oil allows making of margarine. Sunflower oil is also applied in paint-and-varnish and soap industry.
Sunflower oil production wastes (a press cake and an oilseed meal) are used as high-protein feedstuff for cattle.

The roasted fruits of sunflower - sunflower seeds - are considered by many as an original national delicacy in Russia and other CIS countries. There is even an especial subspecies of oilseed sunflower (nibblable sunflower) with very large seeds.
Sunflower is the important melliferous plant. Honey from nectar of blooming sunflower differs by a delicate aroma and a few astringent flavour. It crystallizes in fine grains getting a mellow amber tint.

Sunflower shell is used for biofuel production in the form of fuel briquettes.

One of little-known features of sunflower is its rubber-containing properties. Not so long ago selectors have produced special varieties which extract latex from caulis incisions in significant amounts. The rubbers produced on its basis are very hypoallergenic in comparison with natural and synthetic rubbers.

Sunflower seeds contain vitamins PP and E, polyunsaturated aliphatic acids (especially linoleic), phosphotides, lecithin, plant waxes, etc.

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