Herb of the Month – April: Poppy

Herb of the Month – April: Poppy

The Herb of the Month for April 2020 is Poppy Papaver somniferum.

The poppy is the source of the culinary poppy seed and also poppy seed oil. The beautiful annual poppy plant, which originated in the Middle East, has been cultivated for at least six thousand years, and ancient peoples, including the Sumerians, used the opium poppy and the seed thereof medicinally. Anciently, many powers were attributed to this herb, including invisibility!

The plants were passed to the Assyrians and Babylonians, and from there were introduced to the Egyptians. The Egyptians had trade routes with Minos, Greece, and Rome where the plant was then also used. Its natural sleep producing qualities were highly appreciated by these ancient cultures. Its history and travels from one civilization to another attest to its importance and variety of uses. Even today, it is a source of modern pain relief.

The sap of the seedpod, harvested by scoring the pod, contains the opium from which medicines were produced, morphine being one of the products.

Besides its medical uses, poppy seeds are a favorite used in baked goods in many cultures all around the world. The seeds form in the seed pod which is at the end of the flower stalk. Their nutty flavor can be accentuated by toasting them. Poppy seeds in baked goods and desserts are especially valued in Eastern Europe.

~~ Reni Erskine

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