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Carthamus tinctorius
Worldwide safflower production
Carthamus tinctorius - MHNT

Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius, is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds and was used by the early Spanish colonies along the Rio Grande as a substitute for saffron.[2] Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow<

Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius, is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds and was used by the early Spanish colonies along the Rio Grande as a substitute for saffron.[2] Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower is native to arid environments having seasonal rain. It grows a deep taproot which enables it to thrive in such environments.

History

Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops. It was first cultivated in Mesopotamia, with archaeological traces possibly dating as early as 2500 BC.[3]

Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth Dynasty (1991–1802 BC) identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.[4] John Chadwick reports that the Greek name for safflower (kārthamos, κάρθαμος) occurs many times in Linear B tablets, distinguished into two kinds: a white safflower (ka-na-ko re-u-ka, knākos leukā, κνάκος λευκά), which is measured, and red (ka-na-ko e-ru-ta-ra, knākos eruthrā, κνάκος ερυθρά) which is weighed. "The explanation is that there are two parts of the plant which can be used; the pale seeds and the red florets."[5]

The early Spanish colonies along the Rio Grande in New Mexico used safflower as a substitute for saffron in traditional recipes. An heirloom variety originating in Corrales, New Mexico, called "Corrales Azafran", is still cultivated and used as a saffron substitute in New Mexican cuisine.[2]

Production

In 2018, global production of safflower seeds was 627,653 tonnes, led by Kazakhstan with 34% of the world total.[6] Other significant producers were the United States and India, with 26% of world production combined.[6]

Uses

Traditionally, the crop was grown for its seeds, a

Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops. It was first cultivated in Mesopotamia, with archaeological traces possibly dating as early as 2500 BC.[3]

Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth Dynasty (1991–1802 BC) identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.[4] John Chadwick reports that the Greek name for safflower (kārthamos, κάρθαμος) occurs many times in Linear B tablets, distinguished into two kinds: a white safflower (ka-na-ko re-u-ka, knākos leukā, κνάκος λευκά), which is measured, and red (ka-na-ko e-ru-ta-ra, knākos eruthrā, κνάκος ερυθρά) which is weighed. "The explanation is that there are two parts of the plant which can be used; the pale seeds and the red florets."[5]

The early Spanish colonies along the Rio Grande in New Mexico used safflower as a substitute for saffron in traditional recipes. An heirloom variety originating in Corrales, New Mexico, called "Corrales Azafran", is still cultivated and used as a saffron substitute in New Mexican cuisine.[2]

Production

Traditionally,

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.[4]

Edible oil

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The dried safflower petals are also used as a herbal tea variety.

In coloring textiles, dried safflower flowers are used as a natural dye source for the orange-red pigment carthamin.[4][9] Carthamin is also known, in the dye industry, as Carthamus Red or Natural Red 26.[10]

In Japan, dyers have mastered the technique of producing a bright red to orange-red dye (known as carthamin) from the dried florets of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius).[citation needed] Darker shades are achieved by repeating the dyeing process several times, having the fabric dry, and redyed.[citation needed]

Biodegradable oilIn Japan, dyers have mastered the technique of producing a bright red to orange-red dye (known as carthamin) from the dried florets of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius).[citation needed] Darker shades are achieved by repeating the dyeing process several times, having the fabric dry, and redyed.[citation needed]

In Australia in 2005, CSIRO and Grains Research and Development Corporation launched the Crop Biofactories initiative to produce 93% oleic oil for use as a biodegradable oil for lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and transformer oils, and as a feedstock for biopolymers and surfactants.[11]

See also