CHASING THE FINAL RAYS OF SUMMER
To embody the sun on earth is no easy feat. Around the world, the sunflower withstood as a symbol of the divine and an earthly reflection of the sky above. In Greek mythology, the Sunflower was a symbol of loyalty and adoration to the sun god Apollo. The Aztecs used the sunflower as part of an offering to Huitzilopochtli the god of sun and war. This connection is in fact, so enduring, that the Otomi, an indigenous people in Mexico refer to the sunflower as dä nukhä, which means “large flower that looks at the sun god”.
Because the sunflower requires 6-8 hours of full sunshine to thrive, the flowers usually bloom during the summer and sometimes into the early part of autumn. At their peak, they are known to grow up to 3.5 meters (12 feet) tall. Humans around the world rely on harvesting the seeds from these flowers to make oil, for food and, in our case at Supper Club, for Vitamin E. Sunflowers are a rich source of high-quality Vitamin E, as well as other antioxidants such as niacin, phenolic acids and flavonoids. When it came to sourcing, we wanted to use the best ingredients possible.
Vitamin E is commercially made from 3 main sources; Wheat – we wanted to avoid this to accommodate people who are celiac. The other is soyabean – this for us was problematic on two counts; the first was our inability to find Vitamin E of a high concentration sourced from soybean, and the second was the uncertainty behind the unsustainable and unethical farming practices of soy (large sections of the Amazon Forest is regularly cleared to make space for soy farms). The final option we had were sunflowers, which are not only sustainably farmed but also one of the highest quality sources for Vitamin E – at Supper Club, we use a 1000iu, food grade Vitamin E.
We had somewhat of a deary summer this year, although interspersed with fleeting heatwaves – British Summer is always unpredictable. For the most part, the summer months in England were rainy and overcast, giving less than ideal conditions for the sunflowers to grow to the marvellous heights mentioned above. Nonetheless I wanted to visit a local sunflower field to see these flowers during their bloom. Because of the bad weather conditions, I only had a window period of a few days to catch the blooms and take home the last of the summer’s gift – I’m glad I did.