(Papaver somniferum – Family Papaveraceae)
Poppy seeds are obtained from an annual ornamental plant having large white, pink, or lilac flowers. When green, the unripe seed pods split, and a gummy latex which contains about two dozen different alkaloids of considerable interest to the medical field oozes out. One of these alkaloids is the potent narcotic known as “opium,” to which millions of people are addicted. When the seeds themselves become ripe, they no longer contain these powerful alkaloids, but can still contain the residue if not properly cleaned during the manufacturing process. These seeds are used in various cake or cookie recipes, but are certainly not considered an essential food item. There are many different varieties of the opium poppy, bearing two distinctly different types of seeds. The type common in Europe is the colour of blue-gray shot, while those from India are much smaller and a creamy yellow. There is very little difference in the taste of the two.