Used predominantly in European cooking, blue poppy seed is slightly nutty and sweet, with a almond-like flavour. Sprinkled over or incorporated into breads, bagels, pretzels and cakes. Good with aubergines and courgettes. White poppy seeds are lighter and more mellow in flavour than blue poppy seeds. They still have a nutty taste and are often roasted prior to being ground into a paste, combined with other spices, to flavour and thicken Indian kormas, curries and gravies. Try them in baked goods or desserts.
Poppy seeds are gathered from the same plant from which opium is produced; bluish black seeds come from Papaver somniferum and creamy white seeds from P. somniferum var. album. Poppies originated in the eastern Mediterranean, where 3,500 years ago the Sumerians called it “plant of joy.” The ancients valued poppy seed for its oil, though its narcotic and painkilling powers were also well-known. Poppy seeds have virtually no narcotic content, although people who eat them may test positive for opium in drug tests. Growing decorative poppy flowers and purchasing large amounts of poppy seeds for such things as topping bagels may be illegal in some countries. Poppy-seed oil is cold-pressed in small quantities for the table or heat-extracted for use in artist’s paints.
Both the slightly larger, oilier, bluish black poppy seeds (Hungarian or Dutch) and the smaller, creamy white poppy seeds (Persian or Indian) have a sweet, pleasant aroma and mild, nutty taste. Blue poppy seeds are stronger in flavour, especially after toasting, and are popular in eastern Europe, Holland, Germany, and Austria, where they appear in stollen, tortes, dumplings, Bohemian kolache, and noodle casseroles. In Ashkenazi Jewish cookery, poppy seeds top breads such as challah, bagels, and bialys. They are crushed to make mohn, a poppy seed filling for hamentaschen cookies and Hungarian strudel. Mild white poppy seeds are prized for their thickening properties, especially for creamy Moghul-style Indian korma sauces. They flavour breads, cakes, and cookies in Scandinavia and appear in Japan’s subtly flavoured dishes and the Japanese spice mixture shichimi togarashi.
- Other Names
- Adormidera (Spanish); breadseed poppy; dormideira (Portuguese); garden poppy; haşhaş tohumu (Turkish); keshi (Japanese); ¬_khashkhash_ (Arabic); mak snotvornyj (Russian); maw seed; mohn (German); mon (Yiddish); paparouna (Greek); papavero (Italian); papi (Amharic); papoula (Brazilian Portuguese); pavot somnifère (French); pereg (Hebrew); post (Hindi); ton fin (Thai); valmue-frø (Danish); ying suhk hohk (Cantonese).
- Purchase and Avoid
- Look for white poppy seeds in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Scandinavian food stores. Look for blue poppy seeds and mohn (ground poppy) in German, Russian, and central European markets. Buy small quantities of poppy seeds, and only from stores with high turnover or from specialty spice purveyors.
- Because they are high in oil, poppy seeds are prone to rancidity. They also tend to get infested with insects, so they are best stored in the freezer.
- Because poppy seeds are extremely hard, a special poppy seed grinder is used to grind the seeds; if soaked first to soften, the special grinder isn’t needed.
Sizzle blue poppy seeds in butter and toss with egg noodles, spaetzle, or steamed potatoes.
Flavour muffins with lemon juice and zest and plenty of poppy seeds.
Toss asparagus with browned butter and blue and/or white poppy seeds.
Use white poppy seeds to thicken Indian lamb korma.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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