All about the magical Poppy Seed

knowledge base poppy seeds

Most of the most beautiful and most innocently looking flower is the Poppy, where Poppy seeds spice come from. Poppy is symbol of important historical events. It is a symbol of the Firs World War, Opium War and all along its story with human has been very complex.

poppy seed flower
photo: Thomas

Papaver somniferum is one of the most beautiful plants of the Papaver genus. Other names for Papaver somniferum is opium poppy or garden poppy. The Latin name means sleep inducing. In the ancient times, people looked upon it as a magical plant and poppies were associated heavily with black magic wherever they were grown, particularly in China and India, home to the white poppy seed.


It was also widely cultivated in by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and primarily used for it’s then-believed-to-be medicinal properties. In parts of India, Poppy seeds are still used to this day for Ayurvedic medicine. Nowadays however, most of the world’s consumption of poppy seeds is culinary, particularly for decoration. Poppy seeds come in different species, most notably white and blue. Some varieties of blue poppy are also dark enough to be named as black!

European Poppy Seeds tend to be blue on the spectrum, ranging from fluorescent blue up to a dark almost-black colour as commonly found on buns and other bread. White poppy seeds are those grown in India. Taste-wise, there is no difference in taste between blue and white poppy seeds. Both are sweet, nutty, and have a buttery mouthfeel. You also needn’t worry about the opium aspect that poppy seeds are so famous for. There are nearly none or only very insignificant traces of narcotics in the poppy seeds, because gathering is strictly done when the fruit is completely dry. Poppy Seeds also undergo a treatment to prevent them from being able to germinate. In fact, all poppy seeds are grown in regulated environments that could rival a military outpost: gated off, and guarded to prevent smuggling.

poppy seed cupcakes
photo: Eliza Adam

Culinary uses of Poppy Seeds

For a long time poppy has been main source of cooking oil (oillette) in Europe, until late 19 century. Since then the use of poppy seed oil has decreased significantly, the main reason being rising prices, which meant that the poppy has been substituted by other, more affordable, agricultural products such as canola seeds.

Nowadays we can still find traditional recipes using the poppy seeds, especially popular in traditional cuisine in Central Europe. In Hungary and Poland it’s used mainly to make a thick paste, which is used for filling in pastries and sweet bread. Poppy seeds are also commonly sprinkled on pretzels, breads, creamed potatoes and lemon pasta. In Middle Eastern and Jewish cookery, poppy seeds go on breads and also in cakes and candies because of their nutty aromas.

In India, Poppy Seeds are added to some traditional spice blends and are used in the preparation of some vegetable dishes.

Health benefits

In traditional medicine, Poppy seeds are used for their sedative virtues. The amount of the sedative alkaloids like morphine, papaverine and codeine is very small, which actually has beneficial properties on the body and on the nerve system in particular. Infusion of poppy seeds can help relax and numb pain.

The seeds are rich in vitamin B1, and E, and are excellent source of calcium. Poppy has some qualities which make it a good candidate for a healthy diet. It not only has a positive effect on the nervous system, but is regarded as a good antioxidant, it helps fight insomnia and soothe irritated stomachs. It’s believed that it help against formation of stones in kidneys. In Eastern Europe the poppy seeds infusion is use for home-remedy for earaches and toothaches.

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Market price at time of posting:


70G GLASS JAR HKD 37 / USD 4.63
100G REFILL BAG HKD 32 / USD 4.00
200G REFILL BAG HKD 56 / USD 7.00
500G REFILL BAG HKD 111 / USD 13.88

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