Wednesday, August 19, 2015


 (Carthamus tinctorius)

The botanical name Carthamus derives from the Arabic kurthum meaning “dye” in reference to the traditional use for safflower flowers for coloring food and making dyes for textiles.  The modern Arabic name of safflower, usfur, comes from asfar meaning “yellow”.  Safflower has been known since ancient times and is one of humanity’s oldest crop.  It has been cultivated as early as 4000BC, has been found in Egyptian tombs and has been in great demand as a coloring agent including its use to dye the robes of Buddhist monks and nuns alike.  However, today safflower is grown primarily for its oil in over 60 countries, including India which is responsible for the production of over half the amount produced worldwide.  Commercial production in the U.S. is concentrated in several Western states including Nebraska and Colorado.

This annual which grows one to two feet tall is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like plant with many sharp spines on its leaves and is propagated by seed sown in spring.  Safflower develops a strong taproot and thrives in sunny, dry conditions especially during flower and seed production.  Its branches produce one to five globular flower heads with tiny yellow-orange-red florets which bloom in July.  The flowers are self-pollinating, but bees and other insects help achieve the highest yields.  The flowers are harvested in summer to be used fresh or dried for dye infusions, but they also dry well for arrangements.  The seeds are small and slightly rectangular like sunflower seeds and are generally cream or off-white.  They are enclosed in the head at maturity in September, which prevents shattering before harvest for extraction of the 35-45% oil they contain.

The whole safflower plant can be used for preparing a nutritious vegetable and also as fodder for animals, fuel for biomass gasifiers and char for soil conditioning.  The edible flower petals give a yellow to bright orange color to food products and cosmetics and have been used as a substitute for the expensive saffron.  Their value as a spice is nearly nil, but their staining capability justifies their usage in the kitchen.  The flower petals also produce a variety of colors from crimson to light pink to cotton yarn.  Extracts from the florets contain nutrients and are used in the treatment of many illnesses in Chinese medicine as well as in a tonic tea. The seeds produce the flavorless, colorless safflower oil which is nutritionally similar to sunflower oil and is used mainly for cooking, in salad dressing and in the production of margarine.  It is associated with lowering of blood cholesterol.

Safflower seed is quite commonly
used as an alternative to sunflower seeds
in birdfeeders, since
squirrels do not like the taste of it
Golden Rice 
2Tbs butter
1 cup rice
2Tbs safflower petals
2½c boiling water
Melt butter, add rice and slowly sauté over a low heat for several minutes, but do not let rice brown. Chop safflower petals and stir in with rice, then add boiling water and stir and cover.  Reduce heat and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
And God said, "See, I have given you every herb
that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth,
and every tree whose fruit yields seed;
to you it shall be for food

Genesis 1:29

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