(Carthamus tinctorius) Safflower is an annual that is native to the Mediterranean. Attractive and utilitarian, safflower is a delightful addition to any garden. The bright flowers bring a splash of color to any dish and have even been used to dye fabrics for centuries. The tender shoots can be enjoyed in salads, and the edible seeds can be pressed for their flavorful and aromatic oil. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep. Ideal germination temperature is 60-70F. Seeds germinate in 7-14 days. Direct sow after last frost in a rich, well-worked garden bed. Safflower develops a deep taproot and does not transplant well, so starting indoors isn't recommended. Space plants 6-10 inches apart. For best performance, it needs fairly dry soil and hot conditions.
A wonderful and easy-to-grow,substitute for true saffron in cooking! Safflower is a wonderful plant with several uses and one of humanity’s oldest crops. Long before true saffron was cultivated, safflower was already a major crop in ancient Egypt. It later spread to ancient Greece where it was called Karthamos, and all the way to China. The Arabs brought it to southern Spain where in the 12th century they selected a spineless strain (safflower is from the “thistle” family). The village of Corrales was founded on the banks of the Rio Grande, and the Spanish colonists had brought safflower seeds possibly collected from their stop in the Island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, where a famous strain was then cultivated. This Corrales Azafran strain has stayed close to this original seed brought to New Mexico. It is widely adapted; flowers can be used as a coloring spice, dried to brew tea and also, a dye with a deep orange, almost red, pigment. The young plants make a delicious leafy green. The seeds can be pressed into oil. The deep taproots are a very efficient soil breaker.