The opium poppy is a hardy annual that grows to about 1.2m with large, coarse, toothed, silvery green foliage and tall flowering stems bearing four-petalled flowers that may be white, pink, lavender or red, followed by a globose capsule with an operculum that opens to scatter the ripe seed. The wall of the green capsule oozes bitter white latex when wounded. Opium cultivation is strictly controlled in many countries and is the source of some our most important painkillers, morphine and codeine, but also of dangerously addictive heroin.
All varieties require a well drained soil and sunny position. To sow seeds evenly during spring, mix them with dry sand. You need to weed regularly. Harvest and dry the petals immediately after the flowers fully open. Collect seed from ripe capsules and dry them.
Poppy seeds are not narcotic and are widely used for their flavour and crunchy texture. They are popular in baked goods, such as breads, cakes, pastries, muffins and bagels. In India the seeds are ground and used to thicken sauces. The seeds also feature in Jewish and German cooking.
information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs
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