In Italian, sunflowers are called “girasole”, literally "sun turns". This refers to the amazing characteristics of sunflowers. In the morning, the flowers turn their heads toward the rising sun and as the sun moves during the day, they turn their heads to follow it. By sunset they are facing west. During the night cells grow on one side of the flower's "neck" which turn it to meeet the rising sun once agian. Truly a Miricola di Natura.
Sunflowers are more than just a pretty face, however... they also produce a valuable cash crop to make sunflower oil. Sunflower oil can then be used as a cooking oil, but no proper Italian would abandon olive oil for this oil. Instead it is used to produce various other products for beauty, to make margarine and even biodiesel automobile fuel.
The sunflowers in Italy are usually at their peak by early July. As you drive in Umbria or Tuscany at that time of the year, you will see the patchwork of colored fields enhancing your views. The yellow color becomes more intense as the flowers mature.
The real mystery is that no one really knows why the flowers themselves follow the Sun. Perhaps they just like the feel of the Italian sun on their faces.... In Italy, this is no surprise. Everyone there is always a bit chilly and in need of a good dose of sun...
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