October Herb of the Month, Safflower

Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius

Did You Know?

• Safflower produces a thistle-like flower ranging in color from yellow to dark red.
• It is one of the oldest cultivated plants, originally grown to use the flowers as coloring agents for food,
cosmetics, and textiles.
• Safflower garlands were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb (around 1323 BCE).
• The pigment from the flower petals is known as carthamin and was used to dye Egyptian textiles dating back to the 12th dynasty.
• As a food additive, carthamin is known as Natural Red 26.
• The flower petals have been substituted for saffron since they do produce a similar color and flavor.
• Commercial production of safflower is primarily for oil pressed from the seeds. By-products of this process create livestock meal and are used in making soap.
• A small amount of commercially grown safflower is for birdseed.
• There are two types of safflower varieties, one produces oil high in concentrations of oleic acid
(monounsaturated fatty acids) which are used in salad dressings and soft margarine and must be refrigerated. The other produces high concentrations of linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids)
which is shelf-stable and doesn’t turn yellow over time. The linoleic acid types are used in high-temperature cooking as well as in the manufacture of paints, stains and linoleum tiles.
• Traditional healers have used safflower worldwide to treat a variety of conditions. Today, research continues, particularly to treat high cholesterol, heart health and diabetes management.
• Safflower oil is said to improve hair quality and sheen when lightly rubbed into the scalp. It also benefits the skin as an effective moisturizer and is often added to bath and beauty products.


Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius
• High oleic safflower oil has a high smoke point and can be used for frying or other high-temperature cooking.
• Refined safflower oil is best when a neutral flavor is desired, as in baking.
• Use safflower oil in salad dressings since it remains liquid in colder temperatures.
• Mild tasting safflower oil is often used because of its mild flavor and clear color.
• The dried flower petals have been substituted for the more expensive saffron. While they appear similar and also produce pigment, the flavor is not comparable.
• Cold-pressed safflower oil can be used as carrier oil when making cosmetics, soaps, lotions and other products applied to the skin and hair.

Refried Black Beans
Refried beans are always fried in lard or bacon drippings in Mexico and the Southwest. In this recipe, their flavor comes from the cumin and chili, which are sautéed with them, and the garlic, onion and
cilantro, which is simmered with them in the boiling water.
1 pound black beans, washed and picked over
16 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon safflower oil
1 large onion
4-6 large cloves garlic, minced, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ teaspoon salt, divided
4 teaspoons mild chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Low-fat plain yogurt, for garnish
Soak beans overnight in 8 cups water. (Alternatively, place beans in a large pot, cover with water and bring to
a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large, nonstick heavy-bottomed saucepan, bean pot or Dutch oven, and sauté onions and 4 cloves garlic over medium heat until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the soaked beans and 8 cups of freshwater and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 1 hour, uncovered. Add more garlic, if you wish,
cilantro and 1 teaspoon salt, and continue to simmer, adding water as needed, until the beans are soft and the liquid is thick and aromatic and barely covers the beans, about 45 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
Allow the beans to cool. Mash them coarsely in batches in a food processor or blender or with a potato masher. Make sure not to puree until smooth; you want to texture.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, nonstick skillet and add chili powder and cumin.
Sauté for 1 minute over medium heat and add the mashed beans (this can be done in batches, depending on the size of your pan). Taste for salt, adding ½ teaspoon more if desired, and fry the beans, stirring often, until they begin to get crusty and aromatic. If they seem too dry, add some water. Mash and stir as they cook.
There should be enough liquid so that they bubble as they cook, while at the same time a thin crust forms on the bottom. Cook for about 10 to 20 minutes and either serve immediately topped with a dollop of yogurt, or
transfer to an oiled serving dish if you plan to reheat the beans later.
Make-Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, at 325˚ F for 20 to 30 minutes. If the beans seem dry, moisten them with water before reheating.