Poppy seed scientifically known as Papaver somniferum is an oil seed obtained from the opium poppy. Since thousands of years ago this tiny kidney shaped seeds have been harvested from dried seeds pods of the poppy flower by various civilizations. They are used as whole or ground as an ingredient in many cuisines and are pressed to yield poppy seed oil.
Since way back through Egyptian times poppy seeds have been used through as a spice in several cuisines. Furthermore, these seeds comprise 50 percent edible oil, which is why they were extracted for usage in several cultures, right from the Egyptian era. Even today it is being used in making of various gravies, confectionery and bagels. Poppy seeds are basically grown for their ornamental, medicinal and culinary values. There are known to add a distinct taste and flavor to the dish. Apart from being used in culinary purpose these seeds also have several health benefits.
The poppy seed harvest can be a by-product of opium poppy cultivation for opium, poppy straw, or both opium and poppy straw. Conversely, poppy straw can be a by-product of cultivation of poppy seeds. Poppy seeds primarily are for culinary uses, as intact seeds or as a paste of ground seeds. They are used as a spice, condiment, a decorative garnish or a thickener, and as a main ingredient. They are used in many baked products, main course dishes, and desserts.
For many civilizations, the seed has been mentioned in ancient medical texts and the Sumerians has already grown them. The Egyptian papyrus scroll named Ebers Papyrus, written ca. 1550 BC, lists poppy seed as a sedative. Poppy seeds have long been used as a folk remedy to aid sleeping, promote fertility and wealth, and even to provide supposed magical powers of invisibility. The seeds of other poppy types are not eaten, but they are cultivated for the flowers they produce. Annual and biennial poppies are considered a good choice to cultivate from seed as they are not difficult to propagate by this method, and can be put directly in the ground in January. The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), for example, is a striking orange wildflower that grows in the Western and Northwestern, United States.
Poppy seeds are less than a millimeter in length and it takes 3,300 poppy seeds to make up a gram, and a pound contains between 1 and 2 million seeds. The primary flavor compound is 2-pentylfuran. Poppy seeds of superior quality are harvested when they are ripe, after the seed pod has dried. Traditionally, opium is harvested while the seed pods are green and their latex is abundant, but the seeds have just begun to grow.
In North America whole poppy seeds are widely used in and on many food items like rusk, muffins, cakes, buns, pasteries etc. They are also used in various German breads and desserts. Poppy seeds are often added to hamburger buns and make hot dog buns extra crunchy. In India, poppy seeds are also known as Kasa Kasaa in Tamil, Gasagase in Kannada, Gasagasa or gasagasaalu in Telugu and Khas Khas in Hindi. There are widely used in Andhra, Bengali, Oriya and Malabar (northern Kerala) cuisines. They are used for thickening, nice texture and gives amazing flavor to the recipe. Ground poppy seeds along with coconut and other spices combined together are commonly used in preparation of Korma or Qorma’s. As it is quite difficult to grind them raw they are normally dry fried soaked in little water and then ground to make a paste of the right consistency. By adding this masala the dish becomes rich with strong flavor, aroma and taste.
Gasagase Payasa a very popular south India liquid dessert especially from the Karnataka cuisine is deliciously made out of white poppy seeds, jaggery, coconut and milk. In Maharashtra, poppy seeds are used to garnish anarsa, a special sweet prepared during the festival of Diwali. In Andhra cuisine the white poppy seeds paste masala is used mainly for preparing exotic dishes with chicken, meats or vegetables. The gasagasaalu is extensively used in many rich, aromatic and spicy types of gravy.
One of the most popular dishes is aloo posto (potato and poppy seeds) which consists of a large amount of ground poppy seeds cooked together with potatoes to produce a smooth rich texture, easily eaten with rice. Aloo posto is a very popular dish of West Bengal and Bangladesh. There are many variations to this basic dish, replacing or complementing the potatoes with such ingredients as onions (payaj posto), ridge gourd (jhinge posto), chicken (murgi posto), and possibly the most popular prawns (chingri posto). The cooked poppy seeds are sometimes served without any accompanying ingredients at all. The consistency of the dish may vary depending on local or household traditions. There are many other posto dishes. One dish involves grilling patties made from posto, sometimes frying them (posto-r bora). Another dish involves simply mixing uncooked ground poppy seeds with mustard oil, chopped green chili peppers, and rice.
Poppy seeds are relatively expensive and are sometimes mixed with the seeds of Amaranthus paniculatus which closely resemble poppy seeds. Normally white poppy seeds are used for thickening the dishes. Poppy seeds are also used in preparing bar of candy and fillings in pastries and croissants. Poppy seeds are pressed to form poppy seed oil very valuable commercial oil that has multiple culinary, medicinal and industrial uses. According to Indian Ayurveda traditional medicine, soaked poppy seeds are ground into a fine paste with milk and applied on the skin as a moisturizer.
Poppy seeds are a good source for minerals that are required for the proper functioning of organs. Some of these minerals include calcium, zinc, magnesium, and so on. Poppy seeds contain approximately 1584 grams percent of calcium. They are often considered to be ideal for pregnant and lactating mothers. Poppy seeds are also known to contain a substantial amount of protein in the form of globulin, which has an amino acid constitution similar to the whole seed protein. Since they supply the body with substantial amounts of carbohydrates, they provide good amount of energy to the body. Moreover, the fatty acids from the poppy seeds help with digestion, as they supply several essential acids that help with breaking down food in the stomach. Additionally, the calories from poppy seeds are far lesser than the amount got from other herbs and spices.
Poppy seeds are highly nutritious, and less allergenic than many other seeds and nuts. Allergy (type 1 hypersensitivity) to poppy seeds is very rare, but has been reported and can cause anaphylaxis. Poppy seeds are a potential source of anti-cancer drugs. They are also used in cooking different dishes like vegetables, noodles and fishes to add flavor and aroma to these items. Poppy seeds are a store house for opium and considered as a useful ingredient for preparing various herbal medicines.
These seeds contain several vital minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, which aid in the smooth functioning of all organs of the body. Poppy seeds are an excellent source of energy as well since they contain carbohydrates as well. Their calorie content is lower as compared to other herbs and spices and this makes them a popular additive to foods as well. Poppy seeds are also rich in oleic acid which is believed to prevent breast cancer. Poppy seeds also contain about 45-50% of unsaturated fatty acids. Apart from these nutritional benefits, there are health benefits for poppy seeds as well. One can also make a poultice from these seeds and apply it to affected areas to obtain relief from any welling or pain in the joints. Poppy seeds can also be used in salads and as massage oil. They are a good source of calcium and beneficial in pregnancy as they are a good food for pregnant and lactating mothers.
The nutritional values per 100 g of Poppy seeds are:
Magnesium: 30.4 mg
Sodium: 2.3 mg
Calcium: 126 mg
Potassium: 62.9 mg
Dietary Fiber: 23 g
Sugars: 3 g
Vitamin C: 3 mg
Niacin: 0.976 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.444mg