How to cultivate the Safflower
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) also known as zafferanone, is a spontaneous and infesting plant of the Asteraceae family. Safflower grows wild both in continental and hot or coastal climates; its cultivation is instead carried out to extract the safflower oil (from the seeds) and, from the flowers, the cartamin: a coloring for foods with an aroma and a flavor that resembles that of saffron. It can play an interesting role both for the improvement of soil fertility (to insert it in the rotations and for its root system that develops very deeply, up to 4-5 meters). In this sheet we will see how to grow the Safflower, considering that it is a plant that resists very well the lack of water. It is a species that can reach a maximum height of almost two meters, with leaves that become prickly and inflorescences with a color that can vary from yellow, orange, red to the approaching flowering.
When growing safflower, keep in mind that it is very resistant to drought but not to low temperatures.
The ideal climatic condition is with an average of 25 degrees, to obtain a good flowering and a suitable development, moreover the temperatures should never fall below 15 degrees. If these already fall below 7 or 8 degrees, the plant does not survive. It also adapts to clayey soils but without water stagnation and requires very sunny exposure. For its cultivation the suitable sowing period is between January and February; it must be sown in distant rows 40-50 cm. As far as weed containment techniques are concerned, sowing in rows makes it possible to make weedings. If it is a matter of cultivations of minor extensions (of the type ortivo) it can be used the cultivation always in rows and a mulch among the rows, with straw or leaves, thing that facilitates a lot the plant reducing the loss by evaporation. As for the fertilization it is preferable not to make it for this plant but to make sure that it follows a leguminous and precedes a cereal or follow some vegetables that have benefited from organic fertilizations.
Particular attention must then be paid to pathologies of fungal origin and in particular to the rusts, especially in more humid soils, while the diptera feeding on both the flowers and the achenes are often a complex problem, causing a loss of cultivation that can reach over half.
As for the harvesting methods, this for large extensions is carried out in the summer with the help of combine harvesters equipped for harvesting wheat; in order to choose the appropriate time, it is necessary to have a seed humidity of about 10%. The yield in seeds is very variable and can reach 40 quintals per hectare.
For the use of the pistils, after the collection of the flowers, it is necessary to wait for them to be completely dried, then pulverize them and store them. For the preservation of the seeds the capsules containing the seeds must be conserved, in order to provide new sowing in the following season.
Among the salient features of safflower oil, it should be remembered that it is rich in oleic and linoleic acid in percentages similar to olive oil and contains important vitamins.
Saffron finds applications in the kitchen as well as a substitute of saffron for the use of toasted seeds and safflower oil for the particular taste it gives.