History and Mythology

Sunflower Oil. History and Mythology

Sunflowers get their name from the original Latin word Helianthus, which comes from Helios, the Greek god of the sun. There couldn’t be a more well-fitting name for such a bright yellow flower that resembles the sun. There is an interesting root-story based in Greek mythology that relates to the sunflower. After being drowned by the Titans, Helios is said to have risen and become the sun. The mere mortal Clytie, was infatuated with Helios to such a degree that she decided to bury her sister alive. Helios loved Clytie’s sister, causing Clytie to become jealous which then spurred this tragic series of events.

Clytie eventually perished out of desperation and jealousy. She remained rooted in the spot of her death, yet she continues to grow towards the sky and follow the path of Helios the sun god each day. Despite being an intriguing story, its likely that there is a much more practical series of events to explain the sunflower.

They were used more as decoration and floral cover in their early years. Sunflowers and the sunflower oil from their seeds have been around for quite a while. It is believed and estimated by some, that as far back as 3000 B.C. these flowers were being cultivated in Mexico in the sixteenth century. It’s likely that the first uses of the seeds were to make flour for bread, and were probably pounded out into a powder by hand.

Some of the earliest accounts of oil being made from the seeds date back to the Russians in the eighteenth century, until commercial production of sunflower oil began sometime in the nineteenth century. Europe is a large consumer of sunflower oil even today, and beginning in the 1950s its use really began to take hold all over the world as a viable product.

Once commercial production began in the nineteenth century in Russia, sunflower oil quickly started to be noticed for its rich yet light flavors and health benefits. Only recently however has it become recognized for its maximum potential and applications as an alternative to the heavier, less healthy cooking oils.

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