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Poppy Seed

These are the 'poppy seeds' called for in all the bread and cake recipes. Great baked on bread or into cake.

Although the word has become taboo, 'poppy seeds' are opium poppy seeds, the seeds of papaver somniferum. These are viable seeds that will sprout beautiful poppies, should you care to adorn your garden, or just have chewy small sprouts for your salad.

Then again, you may just prefer to experiment with the innumerable cake and bread recipes that call for poppy seeds. The number of strudel, croissant, dumpling and jam recipes that call for poppy seeds is absolutely mouthwatering.

Ground poppy seeds are a common thickening agent in Indian cooking, used for spicy sauces. Japanese shichimi togarashi, an all-purpose spice mix, takes advantage of poppy seeds' nutty flavor.

One main difference is between the various species of Papaver and the Papaver Somniferum poppy. Papaver Somniferum also known as the opium poppy for it use in making the opium drug, was originally cultivated in 3400 B.C. in lower Mesopotamia. The Sumerians referred to it as Hul Gil, the 'joy plant.' The Sumerians would soon pass along the plant and its euphoric opium effects and medicinal effects to the Assyrians. The art of poppy-culling would continue from the Assyrians to the Babylonians who in turn would pass their knowledge onto the Egyptians.

In 1300 B.C., the capital city of Thebes in Egypt, began cultivation of the opium poppy in their famous poppy fields. The opium trade flourished during the reign of Thutmose IV, Akhenaton and King Tutankhamen. The trade route included the Phoenicians and Minoans who move the profitable item across the Mediterranean Sea into Greece, Carthage, and Europe

In 850 B.C, Homer's works the Iliad and the Odyssey referred to the use of the opium poppy in a special poppy tea.

In 460 B.C. Hippocrates "the father of medicine"( 460-357 B.C.), dismisses the magical attributes of opium but acknowledges its usefulness as a narcotic and styptic in treating internal diseases, coughing, diseases of women and epidemics. Hippocrates prescribed drinking the juice of the white poppy mixed with the seed of nettle.

In 330 B.C. Alexander the Great introduces opium to the people of Persia and India. Where the opium effects were obtained through make-shift opium pipes and became very popular and the opium drug spread rapidly.

As technology and chemistry increased their influence in the history of opium, over the next two thousand years poppies rose and fell in popularity. As governments tried to control the manufacture of morphine, codeine, heroin, and papaverine from the opium poppies, in many countries they became illegal.

Throughout much of the 1800's, opium was one of the most popular constituents in all kinds of medicines and tonics. Many doctors considered it to be perhaps the best natural pain reliever ever discovered.

In fact many of the USA's founding fathers used opium, including some of the most famous ones, who according to historians, smoked it in opium pipes and were opium addicts most of thier life. But by 1890, William Randolph Hearst's sensational tabloids began writing stories about white women being seduced by Chinese men and their opium, tying the drug to our growing nationalist fears of the East. In 1905, Congress made opium possession illegal.

Opium poppies were still widely grown as an ornamental plant and for seeds in the United States until the possession of this plant was also declared illegal in the Opium Poppy Control Act of 1942. New generations of plants from the self-sown seed of these original poppies can still be seen in many old ornamental gardens.




Scientific Name: Papaver somniferum

Nutrient Units Value per
100 grams of
edible portion
Water g 6.78 27 0.550
Energy kcal 533 0
Energy kj 2231 0
Protein g 18.04 18 0.514
Total lipid (fat) g 44.70 29 0.848
Ash g 6.78 25 0.235
Carbohydrate, by difference g 23.69 0
Fiber, total dietary g 10.0 0
Calcium, Ca mg 1448 9 67.314
Iron, Fe mg 9.39 10 0.323
Magnesium, Mg mg 331 4 16.172
Phosphorus, P mg 849 9 19.015
Potassium, K mg 700 5 64.427
Sodium, Na mg 21 3 5.508
Zinc, Zn mg 10.23 3 1.247
Copper, Cu mg 1.633 0
Manganese, Mn mg 6.833 0
Selenium, Se mcg 1.6 0
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 3.0 0
Thiamin mg 0.849 6 0.073
Riboflavin mg 0.173 6 0.008
Niacin mg 0.976 9 0.052
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.444 2
Folate, total mcg 58 0
Folic acid mcg 0 0
Folate, food mcg 58 0
Folate, DFE mcg_DFE 58 0
Vitamin B-12 mcg 0.00 0
Vitamin A, IU IU 0 1
Retinol mcg 0 0
Vitamin A, RAE mcg_RAE 0 1
Vitamin E mg_ATE 2.720 0
Fatty acids, total saturated g 4.870 0
4:0 g 0.000 0
6:0 g 0.000 0
8:0 g 0.000 0
10:0 g 0.000 0
12:0 g 0.000 0
14:0 g 0.000 0
16:0 g 4.110 5 0.247
18:0 g 0.670 5 0.081
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated g 6.340 0
16:1 undifferentiated g 0.130 1
18:1 undifferentiated g 6.170 5 0.547
20:1 g 0.040 1
22:1 undifferentiated g 0.000 0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 30.820 0
18:2 undifferentiated g 30.490 5 0.457
18:3 undifferentiated g 0.330 3 0.190
18:4 g 0.000 0
20:4 undifferentiated g 0.000 0
20:5 n-3 g 0.000 0
22:5 n-3 g 0.000 0
22:6 n-3 g 0.000 0
Cholesterol mg 0 0
Phytosterols mg 89 0
Amino acids
Tryptophan g 0.255 0
Threonine g 0.905 0
Isoleucine g 0.905 0
Leucine g 1.484 0
Lysine g 1.099 0
Methionine g 0.470 0
Cystine g 0.453 0
Phenylalanine g 0.882 0
Tyrosine g 0.681 0
Valine g 1.287 0
Arginine g 1.995 0
Histidine g 0.528 0
Alanine g 1.178 0
Aspartic acid g 2.202 0
Glutamic acid g 4.541 0
Glycine g 1.123 0
Proline g 1.062 0
Serine g 0.987 0

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 15 (August 2002)