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sunflower (Picture 1)


Sunflower is one of several plants grown by Native Americans in prehistoric North America and is part of the agricultural complex in eastern North America. These crops were found at the San Andres excavation site in Tabasco, Mexico. The earliest known example of fully domesticated sunflowers in the United States has been found in Tennessee, dating back to around 2300 BC. Other very early examples come from rock sites in eastern Kentucky. Many Native Americans use sunflowers as a symbol of their sun god, including the Aztecs and Otomi people in Mexico and the Incas in South America. Sunflowers are a common crop among Indian tribes throughout North America. There is evidence that this plant was cultivated by American Indians in the contemporary areas of Arizona and New Mexico in the United States around 3000 BC. Some archaeologists believe that sunflowers may have been domesticated before corn.

In 1510, early Spanish explorers encountered sunflowers in the Americas and transported their seeds back to Europe. It is known that among the four plants that have been domesticated in the eastern continent of the United States today, they have become important agricultural commodities, and sunflowers are the most economically important plants in modern times. In the 18th century, the use of sunflower oil became very popular in Russia, especially among members of the Russian Orthodox Church, because according to some fasting traditions, sunflower oil was one of the few oils allowed during Lent. In the early 19th century, sunflowers were first commercialized in the village of Alekseyevka in Voronezh Province by businessman Daniel Bokariov, who developed a technology suitable for large-scale cultivation and spread it quickly. Since then, the town’s badge has included the image of a sunflower.

The sunflower became very popular as a cultivated plant in the 18th century. Most of the credit goes to Peter the Great of Russia. The plant was originally used as an ornamental plant, but by 1769, the literature mentioned that sunflowers could be used to grow edible oil. By 1830, the production of sunflower oil was carried out on a commercial scale. The Russian Orthodox Church increased the popularity of sunflower oil by banning the consumption of most cooking oils during Lent. Because sunflower oil was not included on the banned list, it was immediately welcomed as a food.

By the end of the 19th century, Russian sunflower seeds entered the United States. By 1880, the seed company promoted "Mammoth Russia" sunflower seeds in its product leaflets. This special seed name was still available in the US market in 1970, almost 100 years ago. The source of this seed movement that spread to North America may have been brought by Russian immigrants. In the United States, the first commercial use of sunflower crops was for poultry silage. In 1926, the Missouri Sunflower Growers Association participated in the first process of processing sunflower seeds into oil.

Due to the strong demand for sunflower oil in Europe, the planting area in the United States was upgraded to more than 5 million hectares in the late 1970s. Russia's exports to sunflower oil in the past few decades have stimulated this European demand. During this period, animal fats such as beef tallow used in cooking are negatively affected by cholesterol problems. However, the Russians cannot meet the growing demand, and European companies are also paying attention to emerging industries in the United States. Europeans import sunflower seeds and then crush them in European factories. Today Western Europe is still a large consumer of sunflower oil, but it depends on its own production. The United States exports sunflower oil to Europe.

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