Safflower is an annual herbaceous flowering plant. The flowers are produced in heads upon tall stems, containing yellow, orange, or red flowers. Safflower petals have many medicinal and culinary uses. They’re rich in minerals and Vitamin B-3, and it has a mild taste (with undertones of chocolate and tobacco.) Safflower also looks quite a lot like saffron, giving it the designation as “false saffron” when it’s used as a replacement for the pricy saffron in recipes. The plants seeds are also pressed into an oil. Safflower oil is a favorite of many who prefer a more neutral-tasting alternative to olive oil.
Table of Contents
- Safflower history
- Safflower flavor profile
- Health benefits of safflower
- Common uses of safflower
- Must-read related posts
Historians are not certain about the origin of safflower, but many believe it originated in one of three locations: India, Central Asia, or Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea). Most of the world’s safflower supply now comes from India.
There are mentions of safflower going back almost 4,000 years. The cultivation of safflower is thought to have started in the Fertile Crescent. Safflower was found in the tomb of Amenophis I, which dates back to 1600 BC, and it was referred to in manuscripts of Ptolemy II from 260 BC.
The dye from safflower was exported to France, Italy, and England to color cheeses and sausages in the 18th century.
Today, the seeds are the part of the plant most commonly used. Most safflower is cultivated for oil, which is extracted from the seeds. The seeds are also used as bird feed. And most recently, safflower has become popular as a nutritional supplement.
Safflower flavor profile
Safflower petals have a lightly sweet aroma that can still hold up to cooking. Its flavor is mild and has been described as having notes in common with the flavors of chocolate and tobacco. Because of safflower’s mildness, you will have to use a lot if you want to enjoy its flavor.
Safflower oil is also considered more neutral in flavor. It’s ideal for someone who does not like the flavor of stronger-tasting oils (like olive oil.)
–> Learn More: Safflower Oil – History, Flavor, Benefits, Uses
Health benefits of safflower
The petals of the safflower plant contain a range of nutrients like:
- Phytochemicals: Safflower contains limonene, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help to prevent cancer. It may even be able to help you to manage your weight.
- Minerals: Safflower contains iron, manganese, and magnesium. Iron is important for red blood cell production while manganese helps to build healthy bones. Magnesium helps with a large number of the body’s enzymatic reactions.
- Vitamin B-3: Also known as niacin, vitamin B-3 can help with cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It boosts good cholesterol levels while lowering the levels of bad cholesterol.
Safflower has been used to treat a range of conditions, including:
- Abdominal cramping: Practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine use it to encourage menstruation and ease abdominal pain.
- Fevers: Herbalists in the US use safflower as a treatment for fevers.
- Skin diseases: Safflower is considered by some to be an effective treatment for measles along with rashes and other skin problems.
Common uses of safflower
Safflower has a reputation as the poor man’s saffron. Because the dried petals are similar to saffron, they are sometimes called “false saffron” or “bastard saffron.” Even so, safflower plays a major role in many cuisines worldwide. For example, it is used the Azerbaijani lamb and chickpea stew called “piti.”
In Syrian cooking, it is a favored ingredient used for cooking vegetables and omelets. It can also make Spanish paella a far less costly dish since it is not as expensive as the commonly called for saffron. Safflower is also used to provide the yellow color to margarine.