safflower Carthamus tinctorius, a plant of W. Asia which is a member of the sunflower and thistle family, and resembles a thistle with deep orange flowers. These flowers yield orange and red dyes which were in use from very early times (witness a mention in an Egyptian inscription of 3000 bc).
Even in early times safflower was also used in cookery as an adulterant of, or substitute for, the much more expensive saffron; hence many common names such as ‘bastard saffron’.
In the second half of the 20th century safflower oil, extracted from the seeds, began to attract considerable attention. This was partly for health reasons (it has a higher proportion of polyunsaturates than any other commonly available oil), but it is in any case an excellent light cooking oil.