Picking Safflower Heads: How To Harvest Safflower Plants

safflower harvest
safflower harvest
(Image credit: yumehana)

Safflowers are more than just cheerful, bright flowers that add a sunny air to your garden. They can be a crop too, since the seeds are used to make oil. If you want to learn more about the benefits of a safflower harvest, this article will help. We’ll give you information on harvesting safflower plants and tips on when to pick safflowers.

Safflower Harvest Info

Safflowers (Carthamus tinctorius) deserve a spot in your garden just for their pretty blossoms, bright as marigolds. They are annuals that turn into small bushes with sturdy stems up to 3 feet (1 m.) tall. Each safflower stem is topped with a big blossom that combines multiple florets in shades from pale yellow to red-orange. These flowers are magnets for bees but also make excellent cut flowers. They are also one part of a potential safflower harvest, since both the petals and young foliage can be used in salads. Although the bright colors of the safflower blossoms used to be used for dyes, the main reason people are picking safflower heads these days is for the seeds. They are rich in fatty acids and many people find them delicious. You can also collect seeds to grow safflowers the following year. The seeds are used commercially to make safflower oil. This is a big business in some areas, but gardeners can also start harvesting safflower plants for this purpose.

When and How to Harvest Safflowers

How to harvest safflowers depends on what use you intend to make of the plants. If you wish to use the petals in salads, you can start harvesting as the blossoms open. Just cut them off and take them into the kitchen. If you plan to use shoots and tender foliage in salads, just use garden scissors to remove some. On the other hand, to harvest the seeds, you’ll want to remove ripe seed heads carefully. If you are wondering when to pick safflowers for seeds, you’ll want to wait until fall to start harvesting safflower plants. You can start picking safflower heads when the foliage browns and withers. Once the stalk and leaves are brittle, that’s when to pick safflowers. Just cut off the heads carefully and deposit them in a container or jar. Then break the heads open and separate the seeds from the chaff. Store the seeds in a cool, dry location. If you intend to use them for planting, wait until the following spring, then sow them in the garden after the last frost. If you want to make safflower oil, you’ll probably want to invest in threshing and winnowing equipment.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.