Poppy Seed – The Culinary Part Of The Plant

Poppy Seed Plants Poppy Seed Heads Poppy Seeds

Poppy Seed is the only member of the Papaveraceace family also known as the poppy family. These seeds come from some of the same plants that are used to produce the drug opium; however, once the seeds that are used in culinary preparations have formed, the plant has virtually no narcotic content, since there is only a minute 50 ppm of alkaloid content. After flowering a rounded woody capsule with a crown on top appears and inside are chambers containing hundreds of tiny kidney bean shaped seeds that are the future culinary spice. The seeds in one variety are dark blue and another variety will have white seeds. The aroma is mild and sweet and the taste is slightly nutty, the blue seeds have a stronger flavor than the white ones.

It should be noted that although the seeds have virtually no narcotic content, one taking a drug test will still test positive for opium after consuming poppy seeds in a culinary preparation.


The plant is native to the Middle East and has been cultivated for both culinary and medicinal use for over 3, 000 years according to one source, and another source indicates that it originated in the Eastern Mediterranean about 3,500 years ago.


Whatever its origin, the inhabitants of the ancient world used the plant as a medicine because of its narcotic and pain killing properties. The plant was also used as a surgical anesthetic in the Middle Ages. The plant didn’t begin to be used as a mind altering drug until the 1800’s causing so much tragedy to mankind.


The blue variety of the seeds can be purchased in a regular supermarket. The white variety of these seeds can be purchased from specialty stores that specialize in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern foods.

The seeds should be purchased often from stores with high turnover which indicates that the seeds that are being purchased are fresh.

The seeds are oily and can turn rancid if stored for a long time and are also prone to insect infestations, so they should be stored in a tightly sealed container, and when kept away from extreme heat can be stored from 12-18 months.


The blue seeds are most often used on sweets, buns, breads, and bagels. White seeds are often used in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

For additional information about poppy seeds click on the link to Wikipedia.org

For some great sections on herbs and spices some great references are:

• The Spice and Herb Bible – Second Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill

• The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman with other contributors

• Field Guide to Herbs & Spices by Aliza Green

• The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices – Seasonings For The Global Kitchen by Tony Hill

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