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Saturday, October 23, 2010


Photo By: by Selectphoto

L. Papaver somniferum, Fr. pavot, dormidero (sleeping place), Eng. white or opium poppy. A plant with deeply cut leaves and red, white, pink, yellow or orange flowers found in spring in Europe, Asia and America. Papaver is believed to be derived from pap, milk-like juice located in the stem of the plant. It is said to have been cultivated from 2,000 B.C. Dioscorides defined the seeds as a means ‘to soften the belly.’ In medieval cookery, they were mixed with flour and dough, added to cakes and breads and used to decorate pastries. A specialty was leaf pastry filled with poppy seeds and honey. Crude opium is located in the pods. It is obtained by opening them when almost ripe with a five-edged instrument. This makes five incisions from the top to the bottom. The juice is poured out and saved. The following day the same process is carried out on the other side of the pod. Water is added to obtain the consistency of pitch. Then it may be used. During excavations in Crete, the body of the “Goddess of the Poppies” was found. In her hair are poppy flowers. During this project, it was shown clearly that opium in ancient times was extracted in the same way as today. Even before the Egyptians, it was used as a painkiller and to induce sleep as indicated by the Spanish and French names for this plant. Although used by the Romans, Arabs brought opium to stay in Spain. It appears in 10th C. inventories of their courts in Cordova and Saragosa where they used it as a painkiller and for painless deaths. Those under 50 drank it in small doses as an aphrodisiac. (Those over 50 were considered too old for such things.) During the Middle Ages, the ‘seed vessels’ were consumed. The taste of opium by itself is vile. It was not until the 16th C. that it was mixed with alcohol creating a drink called Laudanum. It was given to teething babies. Until Victorian times, it was obtainable in apothecaries in England. It was considered a stimulant and a narcotic. It was used as a diaphoretic, antispasmodic, sedative and febrifuge. It is said to have been the ‘most used and most abused’ herb. No household could be without it. The white poppy contains 21 different alkaloids. A few are codeine, heroin, morphine (for which this plant is called ‘the god of sleep’), codamine, narceine and papaverine. [ES: Calle. “Poetas.” Sep 21, 01; Font. Plantas. 1999:134:238-242; and Stuart. 1987.233-234]

Photo By: http://uwf.edu/atcdev/afghanistan


Salads were common in the Middle Ages but more varied as not only lettuce was used but all the greens found in the garden.

Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing Image 2
Photo by: dineanddish

½  c white vinegar
¼ c honey
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1 c virgin olive oil
1 tbsp poppy seeds


Mix all the ingredients except the oil and poppy seeds in a blender for half a minute. Slowly add, drop by drop, the oil. Remove from blender and add poppy seeds. Shake before serving.

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