Habitat: Safflower,flowering annual plant, Carthamus tinctoris, of the Asteraceae family; native to parts of Asia and Africa, from central India through the Middle East to the upper reaches of the Nile River and into Ethiopia.
Plant Description: Safflower is a thistly, upright plant that produces 3-foot-tall, smooth, branched stalks from a basal rosette. The plant is about 15 inches across. The alternate, ovate leaves are toothed with small spines and pointed at the tips. In June and July, each branch bears more than twelve flower heads 1 to 11/2 inches across. In each head, chaffy, prickly bracts surround a tuft of golden orange florets. Spineless varieties are available, as are those with white or yellow flowers. The oblong seeds, 1/4 inch long, look like little sunflower seeds. Safflower has been called bastard, false, or poor man’s saffron because it has been used as a substitute or adulterant of true saffron (Crocus sativus), whose tiny, expensive stigmas provide an inimitable flavor as well as a vivid yellow dye. Although safflower flower heads may be used to color sauces and vinegars, their flavor is very bland compared to the real thing.
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