(Carthamus tinctorius), Safflower offers more than just a pretty look


Many any of us look at a safflower and think, well this is some kind of thistle or weeds. Yes, this plant is strikingly similar to the common thistle, but unlike thistle you can use it for many purposes. For example, the ancient Egyptians used it for dyeing, , or at least this is what Ptolemy wrote. People pressed the dye oil from the seeds of this plant. Some remains of the colouring oils were even found in the tomb of the famous, but short-lived, pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Safflower is a well-cultivated plant today

Today, Carthamus tinctorius is grown almost exclusively as a cultural plant. Its place of origin includes areas near the Nile River but also Ethiopia and Afghanistan. In Central Europe if was used since around the 16th century. Thanks to its beautiful flowers and colourful shades, safflower is commonly dried and used to make beautiful dry flower arrangements. Flowers come in yellow, white, purple, red or orange. In Eastern Europe (namely in the Czech Republic) we have 2 varieties: Vierka and Brněnka.


Foto: Pixabay

Safflower as an alternative to expensive spices

Safflower is often referred to as a false saffron. It is also known as wild saffron. Just imagine, a single gram of the real stuff costs around 6 to 8 euros but you can get one gram of safflower for only about 0.5 euro. Many traders tried to pass safflower as the true saffron and sell it. The vision of high profits was obvious and vendors used flowers of safflower as the replacement. They mixed safflower with the expensive stuff and it worked well. The colour did not change, but the final aroma did. To eliminate fraudulent activities, an office called Ufficio dello zafferano in Venice, Italy, was established and exclusively devoted to this problem and strived to prevent false saffron trading.
Foto: Pixabay

Safflower not only for dyeing

Today, in subtropical and tropical regions, this plant is mainly used to produce oils. Dyeing oil has largely become the thing of the past. Safflower is also excellent as a fertilizer and it is also added to animal feed mixtures. It is also an excellent plant for honey making. Honey made from safflower has a dark colour, similar to wild forest honey. Sometimes, you may encounter roasted seeds which are served as non-traditional treat in some parts of the world.

Náhledové foto: Pixabay

Radek Štěpán

Gardening is my hobby, I have a lot of experience and I am happy to share it.


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