Poppy Seeds (Papver somniferum)
Poppy seeds come from flowers which are native to the eastern Mediterranean and central Asia. The seeds are either slate blue, creamy-white or mid-brown. Varieties include the Flanders poppy, Opium poppy and Californian poppy.
Dark coloured poppy seeds have a strong, almond-like flavour while white seeds have a mellow, light flavour.
Poppy seeds have a nutty, sweet aroma which is enhanced once the seeds are roasted.
Dark poppy seeds are used in European cooking to garnish breads, bagels, pretzels and cakes while the creamy-coloured seeds are used as pastes in Indian kormas, curries and sauces. The seeds are delicious dry-fried and then added to salads, dressings, pasta salads, coleslaw, noodles or baked pumpkin. The seeds marry with most spices and poppy seeds love eggplant, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, potatoes, oranges and pumpkin.
Poppy seeds are harvested when the flowers die and form seed capsules. The capsules dry and release the seeds. It is actually illegal for individuals to grow opium poppies in Australia as the sap which oozes from unripe seed pods when cut is a narcotic which is sleep-inducing and used in the production of codeine, morphine and heroin. Poppy seeds that are sold in Australian supermarkets come from registered opium poppy farms in Tasmania.
Poppies have been known throughout history as a symbol of sleep, peace and death as the outer red petals resemble blood and the black centre resembles death. The Flanders poppy grows wild in Flanders, France, where Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought during World War I and therefore are worn as a symbol of remembrance on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.
The opium from poppy seeds is used to make many pharmaceutical drugs including painkillers, cough mixtures and syrups. American Indians used the Californian poppy as a non-additive alternative to opium poppies to relieve colic and spasmodic pain.
Facts about Poppy
If you are grinding poppy seeds, cover them with boiling water and leave then to soak for 2-3 hours or grind them in a coffee grinder.