Once upon a time two eagles were wondered by the beauty of the little girl so they kidnapped her and took her to the nest which is situated very high in the mountains, almost near the sun. The eagles called her Surya-Bai- The Sun Lady. Once, when the eagles were out, the girl got out of the nest and went walking in the mountains. But something bad happened- she pricked herself with the poisonous nail of the beast and died. Fortunately, there was a king nearby who took out the nail out of the girl’s finger so the girl came alive again. Amazed with her beauty, the king took her to his palace but the queen didn’t like the girl and pushed her into the pond. The king cried so much because of the loss. But once, he got out of the palace and saw that the gold flower rose from the water where the girl drowned. This flower was called the Sunflower. This story is from the ancient Indian legends. But the flower was “born” not in the India but on the south of the North America. The scientists have found sunflower seeds during excavations of the ancient Indian settlements who lived about 2-3 thousand years ago. They adored and worshiped sunflowers. Some scientists believe that people started to grow flowers even earlier than a wheat. The Indians ate sunflower seeds in the form of a milled flour. It was even assumed that they were able to produce seed oil, which was used in bakery and cosmetic purposes.
In Europe sunflower came in the XVI century. It was brought to the motherland by the Spanish conquerors. The sunflower was planted in the Madrid Botanical Garden. The huge flower, which lovingly looks at the sun, was very admired by the locals. A few years later, the sunflower became indispensable resident of the gardens in France, England, Italy and Germany. Originally the sunflowers were planted in Europe only because of its beautiful golden color. They decorated gardens, parks and clothes. Even the great painter Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) in order to draw the attention of King Charles I, who was called the “Sun”, drew him with the sunflower.
Nobody expected any practical use of the sunflower. Plant was just pleasing the eye. However, some attempts were made to use it with some economic purpose, but it did not work. The only thing that could be taken fom this flower – a seed.
Over time, people have found another, more useful application. The British, for example, were eating the young seeds of sunflower with oil and vinegar. In Germany, seed were roasted and made a coffee using them. Then they started to be used in medicine and it was even tried to make the seed oil. The British patented their invention in 1716. But the things didn’t go so well.
The name of the flower came up by the famous Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus. Perhaps because of its yellow blooming petals like a golden disc of the sun beams, or perhaps for its amazing ability to turn to the sun he called the sunflower with the Latin name “helliantus” (helios – Sun and anthos – flower). Its name was extended to all European languages.
In Kievan Rus, according to archaeologists, sunflowers grew eight-ten thousands years ago, and then disappeared for unknown reasons. The sunflower seeds were found in the Moscow region during excavations of ancient settlements that date back to VII-V centuries BC. It returned back as a North American “aboriginal” which were brought to Europe after the discovery of America.
Tsar Peter I, studying naval affairs in Holland, noticed the growing sunflower in Amsterdam. He has never seen such a flower and ordered to send such seeds to St. Petersburg and to sow in his pharmacy garden. It was the first time that the sunflower was planted on the Russian soil. Wonderful flower, tall as Tsar himself, played the “decorative roles” in the palace gardens for a long time. After a while the sunflower stepped over the fence of “Tsar’s Garden” and began to extend to the landlord’s gardens. At first sunflower was regarded as a decoration. Then everybody started to crack seeds.
At the end of the XVIII century Russian academician Severhin wrote that using the sunflower seeds, which is a great food for birds, it is possible to extract oil and coffee. Even the article “About cooking oil using the sunflower seeds”, which appeared in 1779 in the Academic Yearbook caused only the scientific interest. But by the time, the new the possibilities of its practical use gradually opened up. Sunflowers spread rapidly in Russia. With great respect, Ukraine welcomed them too. There was no house near which did not play the bright colors of this flower. Then it began to spread to the North Caucasus, Volga and Kuban regions. Having been in human hands, sunflowers turned into crop plants – became stout, strong and 2 metres high. And the conditions were suitable – warm and light enough. About 100 hundred years sunflowers garnished our country with its cities and villages. But get out of the sunflower a “usefulness” in 1829 thought the clever simple peasant-serf Alexis Bokarev from the suburb of Voronezh province, who got a few buckets of oil out of the sunflower. These news spread all around Russia that a simple farmer got the oil out of the sunflower! At first, noone believed. Many people came from neighboring villages to witness the miracle, sniffed it, smeared bread, ate with the great relish roasted potatoes. It was true. Then realized – they laughed over Bokarev in vain because of his “beautiful but useless” garden. A landowner Terentyev wrote in his “On the division of sunflowers”:”Bokarev, a farmer of Count Sheremetev, decided to test to sow in the garden, for his pleasure, a small amount of sunflower seeds and when they grew up, Bokarev, tried to remake seeds by the handmade oilery and, luckily he received an excellent oil, which he had never seen, and which wasn’t even anywhere on sale. “
The next spring – in 1836 – the sunflower was sown almost all around the entire Alexis region. Every year the number of crops were increasing. Four years later the first oil mill in the world was built in Alexeyevka. In 1835 oil was started to export abroad. Over the next 30 years the success of the production of sunflower oil was so great that manufacturers said that they could fill with sunflower oil Baltic and Black Seas. In 1860 this district was about 120 oil factories.
Since that time, every house had his own sunflower oil. The church recognized its as the lean product, so it started to have its second name – lean oil.
In our country, the sunflower has become the main oil culture. Already in 2009, Ukraine collected about 6 million tons of sunflower seeds. Today our country is the world’s leading exporter of sunflower oil, supplying products to 64 countries, and is in one of the first places in the world in production of the sunflower.