Hopefully you noticed that last weekend the clocks went back, which may have meant an extra hour in bed, but also sadly marks the start of proper winter. Some of our international students might be forgiven for thinking that winter started months ago; the summer of 2012 was remarkably brief, even for Scotland.

Back in June, I had higher expectations for sunny weather and invited visitors to the Food for Thought 600th Anniversary Fair to enter our ‘Tallest Sunflower Competition’. I cannot say that we were inundated with entries.  My own attempt to grow a giant bloom was thwarted by some haphazard builders who, ironically, were installing solar panels on the roof of my building. I can laugh about its now… just.

I had almost given up hope of seeing any Transition sunflowers when a fortnight ago, Barbara from the Management School sent me the most spectacular pictures of her sunflower bathed in glorious Fife sunshine (yes, it does exist!). Not only does Barbara appear to have some of the greenest fingers in Fife, she also takes a stonking photo, some of which can be seen below.

Spectacular Sunflower (Photo B. Lessels)


Barbara's Beautiful Sunflower and friends

I was so pleased with Barbara’s triumph because it appeared her sunflower was the sole survivor of the Scottish summer. However, later that week, I went to visit my parents and my Dad called me out into the garden where, hidden behind the blackcurrants in a wee patch of mud, was the second (undoubtedly less glamorous) Transition sunflower (as exhibited in the undoubtedly less professional photo below).

He's a bit surly but he's got a good head of hair.

This got me pondering how on earth two sunflowers had survived October in Scotland: surely they thrived in sunny summer temperatures? Of course, I immediately turned to Google.  It turns out that sunflowers require only daylight, fertile soil and water; 3 ingredients we have in abundance in Scotland. They are remarkably hardy plants and can survive baking heat and chillier climates (although apparently not solar panel engineers).

Next year I have decided I am going to participate in some Guerrilla Sunflowering and plant lots. Not only will they provide a visual feast in October 2013 but they will also help fill my larder for a winter of tasty (and nutritious) snacks.  According to the internet, sunflower seeds have a low GI, are a good form of magnesium, protein and b-vitamins and have cholesterol lowering properties.

At the Food for Thought Fair I provided Homemade Energy Bars and Spicy Sunflower-seed Snacks, the recipes for which can be found in our usual spot (or by clicking here). If you were successful enough to grow your own sunflower, you can dry the head and retrieve home-grown seeds for your Spicy Sunflower Snacks.  Alternatively, as this week was Hallowe’en, why not adapt the recipe to use pumpkin seeds, providing a seasonal and tasty way to reduce food waste (more recipes on how to use your Hallowe’en lantern can be found here).


Speaking of waste, my other top tip from the summer is the realisation that spring onions grow fantastically when placed in a glass of water on a windowsill. Ok, I’ll confess this ‘tip’ is a blatant attempt to shoehorn the final season into this blog-posting, but it does work, as the picture of our ‘Nutella-jar-spring-onion-farm’ attest. Just because its November and freezing outside, doesn’t mean you have to stop growing your own food.

Happy Hallowe’en!