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Poppy seed
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 2,196 kJ (525 kcal)
Carbohydrates 28 g
Sugars 3
Dietary fiber 23 g
Fat 42 g
saturated 5 g
trans 0 g
monounsaturated 6 g
polyunsaturated 29 g
Protein 18 g
Folate (Vit. B9) 82 μg (21%)
Vitamin E 1.8 mg (12%)
Calcium 1438 mg (144%)
Iron 10 mg (80%)
Manganese 7 mg (350%)
17 mg tocopherols in addition to Vitamin E
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Poppy seed is an oilseed obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The tiny kidney-shaped seeds have been harvested from dried seed pods by various civilizations for thousands of years. The seeds are used, whole or ground, as an ingredient in many foods, and they are pressed to yield poppyseed oil.



The Sumerians already grew them;[1] and the seed is mentioned in ancient medical texts from many civilizations. For instance, the Egyptian papyrus scroll named Ebers Papyrus, written ca. 1550 BC, lists poppy seed as a sedative.[2] The Minoan civilization (approximately 2700 to 1450 BC), a Bronze Age civilization which arose on the island of Crete, cultivated poppies for their seed. Poppy seeds have long been used as a folk remedy to aid sleeping, promote fertility and wealth, and even to provide magical powers of invisibility.[3]

Natural history

Poppy seeds; scale bar 1 mm

Poppy seeds are less than a millimeter in length,[4] and minute: it takes 3,300 poppy seeds to make up a gram, and a pound contains between 1 and 2 million seeds.[1] The primary flavor compound is 2-pentylfuran.[5]

Green seed pod, oozing fresh latex from a cut
Dry poppy seed pods, the source of ripe poppy seeds

To some extent harvesting for poppy seeds is in conflict with harvesting for opium. 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.

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.[6] The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), for example, is a striking orange wildflower that grows in the Western and Northwestern, United States.

World production

Dried poppy seed pods next to glass jars of blue, gray, and white poppy seeds used for pastries in Germany
Bulk poppy seeds, black
White poppy seeds, closeup

Poppy seed production in tonnes (2007)
Source: FAOSTAT[7]

Czech Republic 33,101 54.32 %
Turkey 8,981 14.74 %
France 5,000 8.2 %
Hungary 3,300 5.42 %
Germany 2,800 4.59 %
Israel 2,200 3.61 %
Austria 1,964 3.22 %
Romania 1,600 2.63 %
Serbia 700 1.15 %
Netherlands 500 0.82 %
Slovakia 482 0.79 %
Republic of Macedonia 161 0.26 %
Spain 100 0.16 %
Croatia 50 0.08 %
World total 60,939 100 %
The sum does not equal 100 % due to rounding

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 have primarily culinary uses, as intact seeds and as a paste of ground seeds. The seeds are used as a spice, a condiment, a decorative garnish, a thickener, and a main ingredient. They are used in many baked goods, main course dishes, and desserts.

They are also the source of poppyseed oil, and the solids that remain after the oil is expressed are a valuable animal feed. Poppy seeds are often a component of bird seed mixtures for both wild and domestic birds as they are very nutritious and can also be given separately in higher amounts to treat gastrointestinal distress, diarrhoea, and similar afflictions as well as pain and discomfort in many types of birds.

Dried poppy seed pods and straw (plate), and seeds (bowl)

Compared to the seed pod and straw, the seeds contain very low levels of opiates.[8] The seeds may be washed to obtain poppy tea.

According to The Joy of Cooking, "the most desirable come from Holland and are a slate-blue color."[9] The color of poppy seeds is important in some uses. When used as a thickener in some dishes, white poppy seeds are preferred, having less impact on the color of the food. In other dishes, black poppy seeds are preferred, for maximum impact.

Since poppy seeds are relatively expensive, they are sometimes mixed with the seeds of Amaranthus paniculatus, which closely resemble poppy seeds.[10]

Intact seeds

Whole poppy seeds are widely used as a spice and decoration in and on top of many baked goods. In North America they are used in and on many food items such as rusk, bagels (like the Montreal-style bagel), bialys, muffins and cakes, for example, sponge cake. Across Europe, buns and soft white bread pastries are often sprinkled on top with black and white poppy seeds (for example Cozonac, Kalach Kolache and, Kołacz).

Poppy seeds are used in various German breads and desserts as well as in Polish cuisine. Like sesame seeds, poppy seeds are often added to hamburger buns and make hot dog buns extra crunchy. Le Snak is a food product made by Uncle Toby's of New Zealand, consisting of three poppy-seed crackers and a portion of semi-solid cheese.

Whole poppy seeds also have a medical use: in a simple, accurate, and inexpensive test for vesicointestinal fistula (see Poppy seed test).


Polish makowiec, a nut roll filled with poppy seed paste

In Lithuania and Eastern Slovakia a traditional meal is prepared for the Kūčios (Christmas Eve) dinner from the poppy seeds. They are ground and mixed with water; round yeast biscuits (kūčiukai; bobalky in Slovak) are soaked in the resulting poppy seed 'milk' (poppy milk) and served cold.

In Central Europe poppy strudel is very popular, especially during Christmas.

In the countries belonging to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, poppy seed pastries called Mond Kuchen are popular. These pastries predate Christianity; the poppy was dedicated to Diana, the goddess of the moon.[11] In German, the seeds are still called mohn, "moon seeds." Recipes are handed down from generation to generation by women. "Moon cakes" are now usually made around Christmas time.[12]

Poppy seeds can also be used like sesame seeds to make a bar of candy. The bars are made from boiled seeds mixed with sugar or with honey. This is especially common in the Balkans, Greece and even in the cuisines of former Austro-Hungarian countries. Poppy seeds are also used as an ingredient in Clif Bar's lemon poppyseed bar.[13]

Fillings in pastries are usually made of finely ground poppy seeds mixed with butter or milk and sugar. The ground filling is used in poppy seed rolls and some croissants and may be flavored with lemon or orange zest, rum and vanilla with raisins, heavy cream, cinnamon, and chopped blanched almonds or walnuts added. For sweet baked goods, sometimes instead of sugar a tablespoon of jam, or other sweet binding agent, like syrup is substituted. The poppy seed for fillings are best when they are finely and freshly ground because this will make a big difference in the pastry fillings texture and taste. Some recipes for Mohnstriezel use poppy seed soaked in water for two hours[14] or boiled in milk. A recipe for Ukrainian poppyseed cake recommends preparing the seeds by immersing in boiling water, straining and soaking in milk overnight.[15]

Poppy seed paste delicacies include:

  • Kutia, a sweet grain and poppy seed pudding from Ukraine[16]
  • Makowiec, Polish poppy seed roll
  • Makovnjača, Croatian poppy seed roll
  • Колач со афион, Macedonian poppy seed roll
  • Mákos bejgli, Hungarian poppyseed roll, also known as "Christmas bread"[17]
  • Mohnstrudel, poppyseed strudel popular in Germany, Austria, and Czech[18][19][20]
  • Mohnstriezel, German poppyseed cake[21][22]
  • Makówki, a traditional Silesian Christmas dessert
  • Poppy seed kolache (or kolachy)[23][24]
  • Mákos kifli, a Hungarian crescent roll filled with poppy seed
  • Hamantashen, a triangular cookie filled with fruit preserves or honey and black poppy seed paste, eaten during Purim


Germknödel with vanilla sauce
  • Hungarian poppyseed pasta
  • Poppy seed bagels
  • Lemon poppyseed muffins or cake
  • Kluski z makiem, Polish noodles with poppy seeds[25]
  • Various rice puddings (esp. with black poppy seeds), such as "Mohnpielen," a Silesian chilled bread and poppy seed pudding,[26] and a Senegalese-influenced lime-scented poppy-seed rice pudding by Marcus Samuelsson[27]
  • Prekmurska gibanica, a cake made with poppy seeds, cottage cheese, walnuts, and apples from Slovenia[28]
  • Mákos guba, a Hungarian bread pudding dessert made from crescent rolls, poppy seeds, and milk[29][30]
  • Germknödel, a yeast dumpling with a mix of poppy seeds and sugar
  • Kalach, a traditional East Slavic bread used at various ritual meals[31]

Use by cuisine

Poppy seeds are used around the world in various cuisines.

In India, Iran and Turkey poppy seeds are known as khaskhas or haşhaş and are considered highly nutritious, mostly added in dough while baking bread, and recommended for pregnant women and new mothers.

European cuisine

The seeds of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) are widely consumed in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. The sugared, milled mature seeds are eaten with pasta, or they are boiled with milk and used as filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry. Milling of mature seeds is carried out either industrially or at home, where it is generally done with a manual poppy seed mill.

Poppy seeds are widely used in Austrian cuisine, Czech cuisine, German cuisine, Hungarian cuisine, Polish cuisine, Romanian cuisine, Russian cuisine, Slovak cuisine, Turkish cuisine and Ukrainian cuisine.

Jewish cuisine

In Jewish cuisine, pastries filled with poppy seed paste are traditional during Purim, which occurs at approximately the same time of year as Easter. Traditional pastries include poppy seed kalács and hamantash, both sometimes known as beigli (also spelled bejgli). In Israeli cuisine, poppy seed hamantash is the main traditional food eaten at Purim.

Indian cuisine

In Indian cuisine, the white poppy seeds form part of the Indian spices. They are added for thickness, texture and also give added flavor to the recipe. Commonly used in the preparation of Kurma, ground poppy seed, along with coconut and other spices, are combined as the masala to be added at the end of the cooking step. It is quite hard to grind them when raw, so they are normally dry fried, and then mixed with a little water to get the right paste consistency.

Words for poppy seed paste include Tamil Kasa kasaa கசகச Kannada - Gasagase (ಗಸಗಸೆ) or Telugu gasagasa గసగస or gasagasaalu or Hindi - Khas Khas खस खस.

Poppy seeds are widely used in Andhra cuisine, Bengali cuisine, Oriya cuisine, and Malabar cuisine (Northern Kerala).

In Karnataka cuisine, Gasagase Payasa (Kannada: ಗಸಗಸೆ ಪಾಯಸ) is very popular in southern part of the South Indian state of Karnataka. It is a liquid dessert made out of white poppy seeds, jaggery, coconut and milk.

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. There are many variants to this basic dish, replacing or complementing the potatoes with such ingredients as onions (pnyaj 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.

In Bengal (West Bengal and Bangladesh) white poppy seeds are called posto. They are very popular and are used as the main ingredient in a variety of dishes. 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 and made into a smooth, rich product, which is sometimes eaten with rice. There are many variants to this basic dish, replacing or complementing the potatoes with such ingredients as onions (pnyaj posto), Ridged Luffa (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(kancha posto) with mustard oil, chopped green chili peppers, fresh onions and rice.

Chachchari is a dish from Bengali cuisine and includes long strips of vegetables, sometimes with the stalks of leafy greens added, all lightly seasoned with spices like mustard or poppy seeds and flavored with a phoron. Oriya cuisine and Bengali cuisine includes posto, a poppy seed paste cooked with assorted vegetables and/or potatoes. In the cuisine of Karnataka, saaru is a gravy prepared with onions, coconut, tamarind, cilantro, and a combination of various spices (garlic, ginger, clove, cinnamon, poppy seeds, star anise, fennel, chillies and coriander). Andhra cuisine also uses white poppy seeds, called Gasaalu (గసాలు) in Telugu, in various recipes.

In Maharashtra, India, poppy seeds are used to garnish anarsa, a special sweet prepared during the festival of Diwali.

The seeds themselves do not contain significant amounts of opiates. But a poppy tea consumed in some areas and often referred to as doda has been controversial for containing ground opium poppy plant, especially the seed head, and contains significant levels of opiates.[32] Popular in some South Asian communities, doda is created by grinding dried poppy husks or poppy seeds into a fine powder and then ingesting the mix with hot water or tea. In Canada, doda is made from poppy plants brought in from Afghanistan and Arizona under the guise of legal purposes such as floral arrangements, but is sold illegally from some meat markets.[33]

In American cuisine, a thick, sweet poppy seed vinaigrette is used for dressing fresh fruit or salad.

Other uses

In Indian traditional medicine (Ayurveda), soaked poppy seeds are ground into a fine paste with milk and applied on the skin as a moisturizer.[34]

Poppy seeds are pressed to form poppyseed oil, a valuable commercial oil that has multiple culinary, industrial, and medicinal uses.

Poppy seed paste

Poppy seed grinder

For use as a filling in pastries, poppy seeds usually are ground to a paste. To the paste other ingredients are added: usually sugar or honey, milk and maybe butter, and lemon zest and maybe juice.

Poppy seeds can be ground using a generic tool such as a mortar and pestle or a small domestic type electric blade grinder, or a special purpose poppy seed grinder. A poppy seed grinder (mill) is a type of burr grinder with a set aperture that is too narrow for intact poppy seeds to pass through. A burr grinder produces a more uniform and less oily paste than these other tools.

Poppy seed paste is available commercially, in cans. Poppy seeds are very high in oil, so commercial pastes normally contain sugar, water, and an emulsifier such as soy lecithin to keep the paste from separating. Commercial pastes also contain food preservatives to keep them from becoming rancid.

In the United States, commercial pastes are marketed under brand names including Solo and American Almond. Per 30 gram serving, the American Almond poppy seed paste has 120 calories, 4.5 grams fat, and 2 grams protein.

Health effects

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[35][36] and can cause anaphylaxis.[36]

Poppy seeds are a potential source of anti-cancer drugs.[37]

False positive drug tests

Although the drug opium is produced by "milking" latex from the unripe fruits ("seed pods") rather than from the seeds, all parts of the plant can contain or carry the opium alkaloids, especially morphine and codeine. This means that eating foods (e.g., muffins) that contain poppy seeds can result in a false positive for opiates in a drug test. The test is true positive in that it indicates the presence of the drug correctly; it is false only in the sense that the drug was not taken in the typical manner of abuse.

This was considered "confirmed" by the presenters of the television program MythBusters. One participant, Adam Savage, who ate an entire loaf of poppy seed cake, tested positive for opiates just half an hour later. A second participant, Jamie Hyneman, who ate three poppy seed bagels, first tested positive two hours after eating. Both tested positive for the remainder of the day, but tested negative seventy-two hours later.[38] The show Brainiac: Science Abuse also did experiments where a priest ate several poppy seed bagels and gave a sample, which also resulted in a false positive.

The results of this experiment are inconclusive, because a test was used with an opiate cutoff level of 300 ng/mL instead of the current SAMHSA recommended cutoff level used in the NIDA 5 test, which was raised from 300 ng/mL to 2,000 ng/mL in 1998 in order to avoid false positives from poppy seeds.[39] However, according to an article published in the Medical Science Law Journal, after ingesting "a curry meal or two containing various amounts of washed seeds" where total morphine levels were in the range 58.4 to 62.2 µg/g seeds, the urinary morphine levels were found to range as high as 1.27 µg/mL (1,270 ng/mL) urine.[40] Another article in the Journal of Forensic Science reports that concentration of morphine in some batches of seeds may be as high as 251 µg/g.[41] In both studies codeine was also present in the seeds in smaller concentrations. Therefore it is possible to cross the current standard 2,000 ng/mL limit of detection, depending on seed potency and quantity ingested. Some toxicology labs still continue to use a cutoff level of 300 ng/mL.[42]

A fictional example of such a false positive test in popular culture was in the Seinfeld episode The Shower Head, where the character Elaine Benes was fired after testing positive from the consumption of poppy seed muffins.

The sale of poppy seeds from Papaver somniferum is banned in Singapore because of the morphine content. Poppy seeds are also banned in Saudi Arabia for various religious and drug control reasons.[43]

Popular Culture References

See Opium poppy

See also


  1. ^ a b Harold McGee (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Simon and Schuster. p. 513. ISBN 9780684800011.  
  2. ^ Raghavan, Susheela (2006). Handbook of spices, seasonings, and flavorings. CRC Press. p. 158. ISBN 9780849328428.  
  3. ^ Scott Cunningham (2004). Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Llewellyn. p. 211. ISBN 9780875421223.  
  4. ^ Yearbook of Agriculture. United States Government Printing Office. 1896. p. 203.  
  5. ^ Yiu H. Hui, Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering. CRC Press 2006. ISBN 0849398487
  6. ^ "Poppy, chamomile and larkspur seeds are planted outside in January." Day, Molly (2009-01-14). "Gardening: Work to get seeds started in January". Muskogee Phoenix. Retrieved 2009-01-24.  
  7. ^ Braund, Claire (2009-06-23). "FROSTAT". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 2009-09-02.  
  8. ^ "Poppy law" on
  9. ^ Irma S. Rombauer; Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker (2006). The Joy of Cooking. New York: Scribner. p. 1011. ISBN 9780743246262.  
  10. ^ Singhal, Rekha S.; Pushpa R. Kulkarni, Dinanath V. Rege (1997). Handbook of Indices of Food Quality and Authenticity. Woodhead. p. 414. ISBN 9781855732995.  
  11. ^ Eschenburg, Johann Joachim; Nathan Welby Fiske (trans.) (1836). [ Manual of Classical Literature: From the German of J.J. Eschenburg ... With Additions Published by Key and Biddle]. Key and Biddle. p. 347.  
  12. ^ "Poppy Seed Moon Cake or Makosbeigli," in Meyer, June (1998). June Meyer's Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes. Meyer & Assoc. ISBN 978-0966506204.  
  13. ^
  14. ^ Mohnstriezel-Poppy-Seed-Cake
  15. ^ Walter, Joyce (2009-01-10). "Ukrainian community in midst of celebrations". The Moose Jaw Times Herald (Saskatchewan). Retrieved 2009-01-24.  
  16. ^ Ginsburg, Ezra (2009-01-07). "Joyous, family celebration marks Ukrainian Christmas". Sun Media (Winnipeg). Retrieved 2009-01-24.  
  17. ^ "Mâkos és Diós Kalács," in Bernard Clayton; Donnie Cameron (2003). Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads (30th ed.). Simon and Schuster. pp. 308–10. ISBN 9780743234726.  
  18. ^ Maschewski, A. (2005-11-27). "Kunstvoll und facettenreich". Berliner Morgenpost. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
  19. ^ "Filling Vienna's Sweet Tooth". New York Times. 1977-06-08. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
  20. ^ Seeger, Sabine (2007-12-19). "Der Tannenbaum des Anstoßes". Südwest Presse. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
  21. ^ "Breslauer Mohnstriezel". SWR. 2005-07-15. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
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  23. ^ Frederic Gomes Cassidy; Joan Houston Hall (1985). Dictionary of American Regional English. Harvard UP. p. 256. ISBN 9780674205192.  
  24. ^ "Poppy Seed Kolache". Simply Recipes. 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2009-01-16.  
  25. ^ Kari A. Cornell; Robert L. Wolfe (2001). Holiday Cooking Around the World: Revised and Expanded to Included New Low-fat and Vegetarian Recipes. Twenty-First Century Books. p. 43. ISBN 9780822541288.  
  26. ^ Ursula Heinzelmann. "Chilled Bread and Poppy Seed Pudding". Saveur. Retrieved 2009-01-17.  
  27. ^ Marcus Samuelsson. "Lime-Scented Poppy-Seed Rice Pudding with Mango". Food & Wine. Retrieved 2009-01-17.  
  28. ^ Janez Bogataj; Lučka Letič. "Taste Slovenia" (PDF). Slovenian Tourist Board. Retrieved 2009-01-19.   P. 12.
  29. ^ Mayer, Christina (2005). Hungarian Phrasebook. Lonely Planet. p. 178. ISBN 9781741042320.  
  30. ^ "Hungary: "There is no need to amend our EU communication strategy"". 2006-02-06. Retrieved 2009-01-24.  
  31. ^ Julian, Sheryl (2000-12-20). "Seasoned celebrations on Christmas Eve, making the traditional Old World feast is a family affair". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
  32. ^ "Ont. shop owner charged with selling addictive poppy derivative". CBC News. 2008-12-23. Retrieved 2009-01-24.  
  33. ^ Roberts, Rob (2009-01-08). "Peel region’s doda problem". National Post (Toronto). Retrieved 2009-01-24.  
  34. ^ "Poppy face pack". Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  35. ^ Keskin O, Sekerel BE (2006). "Poppy seed allergy: a case report and review of the literature". Allergy and Asthma Proceedings : the Official Journal of Regional and State Allergy Societies 27 (4): 396–8. PMID 16948357.  
  36. ^ a b Panasoff J (2008). "Poppy seed anaphylaxis". Journal of Investigational Allergology & Clinical Immunology : Official Organ of the International Association of Asthmology (INTERASMA) and Sociedad Latinoamericana De Alergia E Inmunología 18 (3): 224–5. PMID 18564637.  
  37. ^ Aruna K, Sivaramakrishnan VM (November 1992). "Anticarcinogenic effects of some Indian plant products". Food and Chemical Toxicology : an International Journal Published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 30 (11): 953–6. PMID 1473788.  
  38. ^
  39. ^ Erowid Opiates Vault : Drug Tests
  40. ^ Opiated curry
  41. ^ Poppy-seeds: codeine, morphine and urinanalysis
  42. ^ Detection of Opiates in Urine - Toxicology Laboratories - HealthWorld Online
  43. ^ Ignorance Is No Excuse for Breaking Law

Further reading

  • Jenő Bernáth. Poppy: The Genus Papaver. CRC Press, 1998. ISBN 9789057022715.

External links

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