Deep orange, excellent cut flower
Safflower is commonly grown as a food plant, but also has a wide range of medicinal uses.
Plants are self-fertile, though cross-pollination also takes place. Plants have a sturdy taproot that can penetrate 2.5 metres into the soil. Safflower has been grown for thousands of years for the dye that can be obtained from the flowers. This is not much used nowadays, having been replaced by chemical dyes, but the plant is still widely cultivated commercially for its oil-rich seed in warm temperate and tropical areas of the world.
A yellow dye is obtained by steeping the flowers in water, it is used as a saffron substitute.
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil. Safflower thrives in heavy clays with good water-holding capacity, but will also grow satisfactorily in deep sandy or clay loams with good drainage. It needs soil moisture from the time of planting until it is flowering. It requires a well-drained soil and a position in full sun.
An edible oil is obtained from the seed. It contains a higher percentage of essential unsaturated fatty acids and a lower percentage of saturated fatty acids than other edible vegetable seed oils. The oil, light coloured and easily clarified, is used in salad dressings, cooking oils and margarines. A very stable oil, it is said to be healthier than many other edible oils and its addition to the diet helps to reduce blood-cholesterol levels.
Seed - cooked. They can be roasted, or fried and eaten in chutneys.
Tender young leaves and shoots - cooked or raw. A sweet flavour, they can be used as a spinach.
A famine food, it is only used when all else fails.
An edible yellow and a red dye are obtained from the flowers. The yellow is used as a saffron substitute to flavour and colour food.
The (fried?) seeds are used as a curdling agent for plant milks etc