Poppy Seeds/ Posto
The poppy plant that yields the delicious seeds used in muffins or to top a steaming bagel is the same that produces the narcotic opium. In fact, the species name, somniferum, means “sleep-inducing”, and it is no coincidence that it is in a field of vibrant poppies that Dorothy and her companions in The Wizard of Oz are lulled into a deep slumber. There is no need to put that lemon poppy seed loaf back on the bakery shelf, though; it is only the outer latex of the poppy seed that contains the opiates, while the actual seeds used for consumption do not.
There are three types of poppy seed: the familiar tiny blue or black seeds used widely to stud breads and baked goods, the even tinier white or yellow seeds most common in India and used for its flavor and as a thickening agent, and the lesser-known brown seeds that come from Turkey. The taste of poppy seed is mild; toasting, though, unlocks a nutty, sweet-spicy aroma. Seeds can be used whole (again, think baked goods), or ground with other spices and used to thicken Indian curries. Poppy seed oil is also used in salads and other dishes.
Refrigerate or freeze poppy seeds to maintain freshness and flavor.
Poppy seeds have been used:
- as a skin moisturizer, once ground to a paste and mixed with milk
- as an anesthetic
- in cough syrup
- to ease ear and toothache
Nutritionally dense, poppy seeds contain high levels of:
used whole and ground
To substitute white poppy seeds for its use as a thickener, use untoasted almonds or cashews, soaked, then ground to a paste. Otherwise, sesame seeds can be used if needed to stud baked goods or garnish dishes.