Poppy Seeds: From Pod to Pantry
Poppy seeds make delightful additions to pastries, salads and dressings. Available in shades of blue, gray and white, poppy seeds have a nutty flavor and may be eaten raw, toasted or ground into a paste. But, where do they come from…?
Poppy Seeds Come from Flowers
Poppy seeds are tiny pin head-size seeds from the culinary poppy plant species known as Papaver somniferum, or more commonly, bread seed poppies. Grown around the world, these beautiful flowers have tall stalks and large petals ranging in color from white to pink, purple and red. In addition to their edible seeds, these gorgeous flowers are known for attracting bees and other pollinators to gardens.
Petals Drop to Reveal Seedpods
When mature petals fall from the flower, what remains is a round seedpod, which can grow to become the size of a golf ball. The seedpod sits at the top of the flower stalk and looks like a little pot with a lid on it. Initially, the seedpod is green, but as it grows and dries out over time, it turns pale brown in color.
How to Harvest Poppy Seeds
Commercially, mature seedpods are harvested and allowed to dry in warm, arid conditions. Poppy seeds are easily harvested from the pods once they’ve had a chance to dry. Each pod contains a large number of poppy seeds – some up to 1,000 seeds! It takes about 18,000 poppy seeds to measure one ounce by weight. In nature, the dried seeds escape from small vents at the top of the dried seedpod, reseeding the flowering plants.
Knowing more about what it takes to get poppy seeds from their pod to our pantry makes us appreciate them more than ever!
Kristen is a professional chef living, working, and playing in Washington, D.C.