The tiny blue-black seeds of the lilac-colored opium poppy; as it is commonly called, were used as a spice by the Sumerians as long ago as 4000 B.C. Nowadays it is cultivated in many countries both for its use as a culinary spice and for its medicinal qualities – it is used to make morphine codeine.
• What are the origins and characteristics of poppy seeds?
Opium poppies grow wild in the Middle East; they were first taken to China a thousand years ago. They have been used for their pain-relieving properties in ancient Greece, Egypt and Italy, as well as India and the Middle Eastern countries. Opium is obtained from the flesh of the unripe seed heads – the seeds themselves do not contain any of the drug. The plant grows around 4 feet (1 1/4 m) tall compared with the bright red corn, or field, poppy of Europe. The opium poppy also has a variety with white flowers.
• What are the culinary uses?
In Middle Eastern cooking the seeds are used to flavor sweet dishes and to make cakes, puddings and strudel fillings. In India, which produces an opium poppy with yellow seeds, the seeds are called khas khas and are used to flavor meat dishes. In most European countries the seeds are sprinkled onto newly baked bread to impart a nutty flavor. There is a Jewish three-cornered pastry called hamantaschen, which has a filling completely made of poppy seeds. You can try making cakes of poppy seeds with honey — they were given to the athletes of ancient Greece for extra energy before they took part in the Olympics.
• What are the medicinal uses?
Opium poppy seeds are used for treating cystitis and pyelitis; make a diffusion and add honey to taste. Read the rest of this entry »