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poppy seed


Synonym: opium poppy

botanical name: Papaver somniferum



The home of the poppy plant is probably between the eastern Mediterranean area and Central Asia. Today poppies are grown worldwide. Among the main areas of cultivation are East Asia and the Balkans.


Grey-blue poppy seeds are sold in most supermarkets, whereas the white seeds can be found more in Asian stores and the brown seeds more in Turkish stores.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

The herbaceous poppy plant can grow up to 1.5 m high and has elongated, irregularly dentate blue-green leaves. Capsules ripen from the white, purple or sometimes red-black flowers and open by themselves when they are mature. With new varieties, such as the so-called closed poppy, the capsules remain closed.

Inside these capsules are the small, kidney-shaped poppy seeds. They are only 1–1.5 mm in size and, according to the variety, white-yellow, brown, or grey-blue to black.

Poppy seeds taste slightly nutty, spicy and sweet. The grey-blue seeds have a somewhat stronger aroma than the white varieties. Baking and roasting increases their flavour.


Like all seeds, poppy seeds contain very little water. At the same time, they have large amounts of fat and protein. They are also rich in fibre and in calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Moreover, they contain large amounts of vitamins E, B1, and B6 and of folic acid. As a rule, however, poppy seeds are eaten in only small portions, so the consumption of nutrients they contain should not be overestimated.

The milk of immature harvested capsules is called opium and contains alkaloids, which are used to make soporifics, analgesics and sedatives, but also as the primary product in the manufacture of heroin. The morphine contained therein is the most powerful natural painkiller known, but it also carries a considerable risk of addiction.

The ripe seeds contain only small amounts of these alkaloids. The concentration is so small that one would have to eat about 3.5 kg to obtain a therapeutic dose. There are also morphine-free varieties of edible poppy seeds.

100 g contain:

Poppy seed
Energy (kcal)
Water (g)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Carbohydrates (g) (g)
Fibre (g)
Vitamin A (RE) (µg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Vitamin B1 (mg)
Vitamin B2 (mg)
Niacin (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Folic acid (µg)
Potassium (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Iron (mg)
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Cool and dry, the seeds can be kept in an air-tight container for several months. They are also suitable for freezing. When stored improperly, poppy seeds can oxidize and taste bitter.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

In Germany it is predominantly dark poppy seeds that are used in baking. The whole seeds are sprinkled on bread, rolls and salty snacks as a flavourful decoration, and whole or ground, they are used in cakes and sweet biscuits.

To make a filling for cakes, hot milk is usually poured over the ground poppy seeds and the mixture is sweetened with sugar or honey. Then the mass is mixed with eggs, or spread together with fruit or curd cheese. In Turkish cuisine, poppy seeds, syrup and nuts are made into desserts and halva, a sweet oriental specialty.

Poppy seeds can also be used in cooking. They are good in meat and fish sauces, vegetables, curry dishes, noodle sauces and salad dressings containing cream, and go well with potato salad, tomatoes, eggs and cabbage salad.

The aroma is more intensive when poppy seeds are roasted prior to use. If the ground seeds are soaked for several hours in some water, they can be used to thicken sauces. They are best ground with a spice mill or a coffee-grinder.

Poppy seeds belong to the oil seeds, because the seeds are used in large quantities to extract oil. The cold-pressed edible oil is suited for seasoning and refining salads.


Only detoxified poppy capsules are allowed to be sold in flower shops.





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