Flowers in Ukraine: Introduction
Flowers have always played an important role in Ukrainian culture. So much so, they’ve named the sunflower the national flower of Ukraine. The love for flowers in Ukraine started back when blooming plants were an integral part of many aspects of people’s lives. Ukrainians wove sunflowers into wreaths for girls during celebrations, embroidered them on fabric and clothes, carved them on wooden furniture and household items, and even painted them on walls. The flowers that embellished dresses and shirts didn’t have a merely decorative meaning. People also used them to protect the wearer against evil spirits, bad fortune and illness. Embedded in national folklore, you can find sunflowers in traditional Ukrainian songs, poetry, and art.
Flowers are so deeply embedded in the Ukrainian soul that their presence continues to grow in everyday life. Hardly any occasion can do without some pretty blooms which are presented in bouquets to Ukraine in all sizes and colors. But one flower seems to have a particularly special place in the heart of Ukrainians.
Sunflowers, worshiped since the time of pre-Christian Slavs, is the most beloved bloom and a national flower of Ukraine. Representing the warmth and power of the sun, the sunflower is the symbol of energy, life and well-being. While in the western world the flower symbolize adoration, loyalty and longevity, sunflowers in Ukraine stand for fertility and unity. But regardless of the part of the world they grow in, sunflowers are known as “happy” flowers that are capable of bringing joy and elevating mood of anyone who lays their eyes on this sunny bloom.
Ukraine National Flower History
Sunflowers, like other popular plants in Ukraine (including potatoes, tomatoes, and corn), didn’t originate in Europe. First cultivated in North America around 3000 BCE, sunflowers were brought to Eastern Europe through the Netherlands.
The seeds loved Ukraine’s hot, dry climate and rich soil. The flowers quickly gained popularity among the locals when they discovered that the Orthodox Church didn’t ban the oil during Lent. The sunflower culture took off. By the early 19th century, people planted huge fields filled with sunflowers all over Ukraine. Sunflower seeds fried with oil and salt became the most popular snack throughout the country. To this day, you can see people of all ages chewing on sunflower seeds and spitting out the shells while watching TV or walking in the street.
It’ll come as no surprise that sunflower lovers like Ukrainians have numerous ways of eating sunflower seeds. One popular use is in a delicious dessert called Halva. Originated in the Middle East and traditionally made from sesame seeds, it has plenty of variations depending on the region. In Ukraine, though, people use sunflower seeds to make the recipe truly authentic. Follow these simple steps to make a traditional Ukrainian dessert in only 20 minutes.
Easy Ukrainian Sunflower Seed Halva Recipe (Vegan, GF)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: about 12 servings
- 1 1/2 cups hulled sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1/3 cups granular sugar of your choice
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
– Blend sunflower seeds in blender until fine, flour-like consistency.
– Combine sugar, honey, water, vanilla extract, and oil in a saucepan over medium low heat and bring to a boil.
– Boil for about 30-40 seconds then remove from heat. Mix in the seeds and salt.
– Thoroughly stir the mixture and place into an 8 x 4 loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Flatten down the top with a spatula, place another piece of parchment on top and press down firmly until tightly packed.
– Allow to cool completely at room temperature before cutting into smaller pieces and serving.
– Store in an air-tight container.
Interesting Facts About Sunflowers You Should Know
– Native to North America, the Ukraine national flower was also beloved by Indians who used it in cooking, making oil, dyes and body paints. They also utilized it for their medicinal properties. The Cherokee knew how to prepare an infusion of sunflower leaves to heal kidneys while the Dakota used it for chest pain.
– If you grow sunflowers in your garden you can not only use their seeds for cooking and making oil, but also their buds as natural helpers in your kitchen. Once you empty sunflower heads of seeds, you can convert them into disposable scrubbing pads and use them for jobs too tough for your regular cleaning tools. Talking about some eco-friendly zero waste products!
– Sunflowers are not just pretty faces. They are also effective for extracting toxins like lead, arsenic and uranium from soil. Sunflowers helped remove toxins after the disaster at the Ukrainian Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. No wonder Ukrainians love their national flower so much! The bloom’s properties came into play again in 2011, when Japan planted millions of these “happy” flowers after the devastating tsunami that destroyed reactors in the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
– Sunflowers were so popular during the 19th century that famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, completed two series of still life paintings dedicated to them.
– Did you know that sunflower bud turns its head as it follows the sun across the sky from east to west and droops its head at sundown? This amazing phenomenon is known as heliotropism. Interestingly, in French the bloom is called “tournesol”, which literally means “turns with the sun”.
– According to 2012 Guinness World Record Book, Hans-Peter Schiffer holds the record for the tallest sunflower. Grown in Germany, it topped out at a whopping 27 feet tall! Only 2 years later, the same sunflower veteran toppled his own record and grew a plant that reached 30 ft 1 in height.
– Not many plants can boast traveling into space, but sunflowers can. In 2012, U.S. astronaut brought a few sunflower seeds along to the International Space Station and regularly shared the updates of his gardening progress with the world.
Sunflowers in all their cheerful glory are definitely a happy sight to behold, but there’s much more to them than just beauty. The versatile plants deliver useful oil, healthy snacks, birdseeds as well as joy and symbolism to people all over the world by way of the ever-powerful energy of the sun. But only the Ukrainians recognize the flower’s significance on a state level and admire its history nationwide by naming it their national flower.
What About Some Sunflowers?
– Bring the sun and cheer into the lives of your dear ones by sending then sunflower bouquet to Ukraine.
– Learn more about national flowers by subscribing to our blog and sharing it with friends!