Common Name: Safflower or Cártamo in Spanish
Family Roots: Botanical name is Carthamus tinctorius. Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth dynasty identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Personality: Safflower is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual, usually with many long sharp spines on the leaves. Plants are tall with globular flower heads (capitula) and commonly, brilliant yellow, orange or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower has a strong taproot, which enables it to thrive in dry climates, but the plant is very susceptible to frost injury from stem elongation to maturity.
Availability: Normally July to November
Stem Length: 38 inches
Flower Length: Varies
Care & Handling: Remove the bottom leaves (if present), cut stems under water, and place in a fresh flower solution.
Tidbits: Traditionally, the crop was grown for its seeds, and used for coloring and flavoring foods, in medicines, and making red (carthamin) and yellow dyes, especially before cheaper aniline dyes became available. For the last fifty years or so, the plant has been cultivated mainly for the vegetable oil extracted from its seeds. In April 2007 it was reported that genetically modified safflower has been bred to create insulin.