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Name Variations

  • azafran
  • Mexican saffron
  • saffron flower
  • American saffron
  • bastard saffron

About Safflower

Wikipedia Article About Safflower on Wikipedia

Safflower flowers are occasionally used in cooking as a cheaper substitute for saffron, and are thus sometimes referred to as "bastard saffron."

Safflower is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual, usually with many long sharp spines on the leaves. Plants are 30 to 150 cm tall with globular flower heads (capitula) and commonly, brilliant yellow, orange or red flowers which bloom in July. 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.

Traditionally, the crop was grown for its flowers, used for colouring and flavouring foods and making red and yellow dyes, especially before cheaper aniline dyes became available, and in medicines. For the last fifty years or so, the plant has been cultivated mainly for the vegetable oil extracted from its seeds.

See also