How can I plant a safflower

Flail organic seeds

Plant portrait: safflower (Author: Jutta Scheurenberg)

Origin and history


The plant, which originates from Egypt but is also native to the East Indies, belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae). Safflower was already used by the Egyptians as a popular dye for coloring from pink to cherry red. You could find it on mummy bandages dating from around 2500 BC. Were produced. Because of its poor lightfastness, however, it was not used much later because other, better dyeing plants were available for the yellow shade.

Today this natural dye is often used to color food, e.g. as a substitute for saffron or to color drinks. In addition, the thistle gained importance as an oil plant because of its high-quality oil. The oil, which is made from the seeds of the plant, has a high proportion of linoleic acid, which is essential for human nutrition.

In the past, the thistle was also used as a medicinal plant against yellowness and dropsy, as well as hoarseness and pneumonia

Botany and ingredients

Safflower is an annual, upright, thistle-like plant with a deep taproot, sturdy trunk, and stiff, prickly toothed leaves. The flowers are initially yellow-orange in color, later bright red. The plant grows to a height of between 60cm and 130cm.

Germination starts at 5 ° C, 16 ° C is optimal. While safflower can withstand frost down to -10 ° C in the youth stage, the flowers and seeds must be frost-free. The red coloring agent is carthamin

Cultivation and location

The cultivation should take place in late March to early April. Safflower prefers deep soils with a neutral soil reaction, but sufficient yields can also be achieved on sandy soils. The sowing depth should be approx. 3 cm. On dry sandy soils you can sow 4-6cm deep to avoid bird damage. In the germination phase, care must be taken to ensure that there is sufficient water supply. The plant thrives best in sunny locations.

There are no special demands on the previous crop, but because of the increased risk of disease, the safflower should not stand by itself. Flowering time is from July to September.

The harvest takes place from the end of August to the beginning of September, when the leaves are brown and dry and there are only a few green flower heads on the plant. The flower heads can then be easily rubbed between the fingers, the petals are bright red at this point. After picking, the flowers should be dried quickly at temperatures of 50-60 ° C.

Processing the plant (coloring red)

Dried safflower leaves

To color red with the safflower flowers, the yellow dye must first be washed out of the plant. To do this, put the safflower flowers in a bowl with cold water overnight.

Then the flowers are squeezed and washed again until the water is only a pale yellow color. The color of the petals is now red.

To dissolve the red dye, a lye is made from potash, which should have a pH of 9-10. The petals are kneaded vigorously for about 30 minutes until the red dye dissolves. The dye solution is strained and the process is repeated two more times, the pH of the lye is increased to 11 by adding more potash.

The resulting color bath is now brought to a pH of 7.5 by adding vinegar essence. The material to be dyed is moistened, placed in the cold dyebath and gently agitated for 3 hours. Gradually, the pH is lowered to 6 by adding more vinegar essence. The dyed material is then rinsed out and placed in a pickling bath with citric acid for about 15 minutes to set the color.

Only neutral detergent should be used to wash the colored pieces.

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