Flowers are grown for many different reasons. While some are grown predominantly for their aesthetic qualities, others are grown as a source of food, for their medicinal properties, for use in manufacturing, or for many other reasons. The safflower is predominantly grown for its seeds as these have many uses. Here is everything you need to know about the safflower and safflower seeds.
An Overview of the Safflower Plant and Safflower Seeds
The safflower plant is one of humanity’s oldest crops. It is predominantly cultivated for its seeds as these have many uses. However, the flowers have also been used for several purposes throughout history. The flowers of this plant are similar in appearance to dandelions as they are globular and come in shades of yellow, orange, and red. There are between one and five flower heads per branch, and each of the flower heads contains between 15 and 20 seeds. They can grow to between eight and 10-feet in height. The stems of the plant are covered in spines.
In their native environment, safflower prefers to grow in arid conditions, and their deep taproot enables them to thrive in these conditions. The country that produces the most safflower seeds is Russia, as they produce approximately 30 percent of the global yield. Other significant producers of safflower seeds include Kazakhstan, India, and Mexico. Other countries that cultivate safflower seeds include the United States, Ethiopia, Canada, China, and Argentina.
Varieties of Safflowers
There are two main types of safflower, and these are differentiated by the oil they produce rather than by names. One type of safflower produces seeds that are high in monounsaturated fatty acid, also known as oleic acid. The other produces seeds that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acid, also known as linoleic acid. According to The Better India, there is also a hybrid variety that produces seeds that it is possible to use for food dyes, medicines, and fodder.
The Uses of Safflower and Safflower Seeds
There are many uses for safflower and safflower seeds. Some of these include:
- Birdfeed- The main use of safflower seeds in most societies is for birdseed, and this is the main reason why people would buy the seeds for domestic use.
- Seed oil- One of the primary uses of safflower seeds is to create safflower oil. The oil produced is flavorless and colorless. Nutritionally, this product is similar to sunflower oil and it is primarily used as cooking oil or as an oil for salad dressings. However, it is also used in some cosmetics and as an ingredient of some paints in place of linseed oil.
- Artificial saffron- Safflower flowers are used in some cultures as a cheaper substitute for saffron, which is one of the most expensive food products in the world. Early Spanish Colonies living in New Mexico along the Rio Grande River used safflower as a saffron substitute. It is still used as a saffron substitute in New Mexican cuisine to this day.
- Herbal tea- It is possible to dry the leaves of a safflower plant to use as a variety of herbal tea.
- Medical research- Safflower seed oil was used in a study of heart disease. The oil replaced animal fats in the diets of people suffering from heart disease. The results showed that those people who ate safflower oil had a significantly greater risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease, than those who ate a diet with animal fat.
- Food dyes- In some cultures, safflower flowers are used to create a dye that is used in food.
- Textile dyes- The flowers of safflower have been used to dye textiles since ancient Egyptian times. There are textiles that date back to the Twelfth Dynasty that contains safflower dyes. An interesting fact is that safflower garlands were also found in pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb, although the reason for this is unknown.
Using Safflower Seeds as Bird Seed
According to The Spruce, there are many species of birds that are particularly fond of safflower seeds. These include blue jays, black-headed grosbeaks, black-capped chickadees, Carolina chickadees, rose-breasted grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, house finches, Northern cardinals, purple finches, red-bellied woodpeckers, and tufted titmice. There are also many other species of bird that you may discover fall in love with safflower seeds.
Many of the species of bird that like safflower seed are larger species. This is possibly because safflower seeds are larger than many other varieties of seeds you may feed to your birds. To accommodate these larger species, it is important that they have sufficient perching space to access the seeds. It can take some birds a while to adjust to the new flavor of safflower seeds when you first introduce them. Therefore, you should mix the safflower seeds with other seeds, such as a general bird seed mix or with black oil sunflower seeds. Until the birds get used to being fed safflower seeds, you can expect some spillage from your birdfeeder.
Where to Buy Safflower Seeds for Birdfeed
If you decide that you would like to try feeding the birds that visit your garden safflower seed, then you will find that it is readily available to buy. It is stocked in most reputable pet food stores, garden centers, and homewares stores. You can also buy this product cheaply online and there are many online retailers that stock this product.
Can All Garden Wildlife Eat Safflower Seeds?
Although safflower seeds will not do them any harm, not all birds enjoy these seeds as there are some birds that find the taste bitter and off-putting. Some smaller birds do not like them because they are larger than other varieties of seeds that are often used in birdseed mixes.
According to Birdwatching Bliss, some of the birds that do not enjoy eating safflower seeds include pigeons, some varieties of doves, blackbirds, and grackles. These are species of birds that many people do not want in their garden because they tend to dominate the birdfeeder and scare away other birds. Therefore, you can use safflower seeds to deter the birds that you do not want in your garden as well as attracting the birds that you do want to see.
It is also interesting to note that safflower seeds can act as a deterrent to squirrels. If you are not a fan of squirrels and want to deter them from coming into your garden, then adding safflower seeds to the birdseed mix is a simple and effective way to get rid of them.
Why Should You Include Safflower Seeds in Your Birdseed Mix?
There are three main benefits to including safflower seeds in your birdseed mix. First, it is a nutritious seed that is beneficial to the health of many birds. Second, it appeals to many birds and will attract them to your garden. Third, it is a deterrent to many of the birds you want to avoid in your garden, and it is also a deterrent to many garden pests. Therefore, you will attract the wildlife you want to see and avoid having unwanted garden visitors.
What About Humans? Can They Eat Safflower Seeds?
Safflower seeds and flowers are both safe for human consumption. In fact, they are used in products consumed by humans in the form of food dyes, seed oil, and artificial saffron. However, many people do not like the flavor of raw safflower seeds, and some people describe them as having a bitter taste. It is also worth noting that you should only eat these seeds in moderation because the high-fat content can have a detrimental effect on your health.
The Nutritional Values of Safflower Seeds
The nutritional values of safflower seeds can vary depending on the type of safflower seed. However, Nutrition Data gives these typical nutritional values for safflower seeds:
- Calories- 145 kcal
- Carbohydrate- 9.6 g
- Protein- 4.5 g
- Fat- 10.8 g (1.0 g saturated fat)
- Vitamins- A, B6, B12, C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and pantothenic acid.
- Minerals- Calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
How to Grow Safflowers for Their Seeds
It is possible to grow your own safflower plants and to cultivate your own seeds from them. This gives you the advantage of having colorful flowers in your garden as well as giving you a good supply of safflower seeds. Home Guides gives the following steps to grow your own safflower plants in your garden.
- Find a suitable location in your garden to plant the safflower plants.
- Test the soil for nitrogen and phosphorus content. If the levels are low, treat the soil with a fertilizer that is high in both nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Plant the seeds in April or May when the temperature is above 40-degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sow the safflower seeds in rows. They should be between one and 1.5-inches deep and between six and 10 inches apart.
- In under three weeks, you should see seedlings starting to emerge.
- The plants will usually flower in July, and you can harvest flowers from them. You should pick the flowers when the buds are just starting to open.
- If you leave the seeds in the mature plants, some will sow naturally into the ground to give you a fresh crop of safflower plants the following year. The rest are eaten by birds.
- To harvest the seeds yourself. Leave the plants to mature for at least one month after flowering and when most of the leaves have turned brown.
- To avoid injury from the spines of the plant, you should wear gloves to crush the flowers and remove the seeds.
- You can expect to reap between 15 and 20 seeds from each flower.
- You can then add the seeds to your birdfeeder or replant them in another location in your garden.
The Preferred Growing Conditions for Safflower Plants
Safflower plants prefer to grow in places that have a long, hot, and dry summer. They need at least 120 frost-free days each year and will grow successfully in areas where there are less than 15-inches of precipitation per year. If there is too much rainfall, the plants are prone to diseases. You should plant these flowers in an area with direct sunlight and away from foot traffic. Safflower plants also prefer to live in well-draining soil that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus.
Safflower Plants and Diseases
Safflower plants are prone to many diseases. They are especially prone to fungal diseases if they are grown in an area that is damp and does not drain well. You can avoid this by planting them in an area with direct sunlight and with well-draining soil. You should also avoid planting safflowers in a spot where you have planted sunflowers, mustard, dry beans, or canola the previous year. This will help to avoid the spread of some common botanic diseases. It is also best to treat your safflower plants with a fungicide to reduce the risk of fungal infections.
Safflower Seeds- The Final Verdict
Although the safflower is a pretty and colorful flower, it is most commonly cultivated for practical purposes. Both the leaves and seeds have a variety of uses, including artificial saffron, food or textile dyes, safflower seed oil, and herbal tea. However, the most common reason why people would buy this in its raw form is as bird seed. This seed can attract many beautiful birds to your garden and deter the birds that scare other birds away. Therefore, it is a good seed to add to your birdfeeder along with a mix of other seeds. You can also grow your own safflower plants and reap the seeds out of the flowers in your garden if you live in the right conditions for this plant to thrive.