Relics from Ancient Greece have been found which clearly illustrate that people have long been aware of the medicinal and narcotic properties of the poppy. Though Arab traders and the spread of Islam to the East, the opium poppy was introduced to Persia, South East Asia and India. When used in moderation, opium gave great relief from pain, but soon the trade was exploited as traders and merchants made their fortune from the addiction of countless thousands, bringing suffering and death to those caught in its trap. Papavera somniferum means sleep inducing poppy, referring to the opium in the latex that exudes when the unripe seed pod is cut. Poppy seeds bought for cooking are entirely free from any sinister side effects. The seeds are sweet smelling and they give off a nutty aroma when cooked. The taste is similar to the bouquet, but with a more highly developed nutty sweetness.
Poppy seed oil used by artists as a drying oil. The blue seeds are used in painkillers, cough mixtures and syrups and as an expectorant. An infusion of the seeds is said to relieve toothache and earache.
The creamy coloured poppy seeds are more common in India, where they are ground and used as a thickening agent in curries and sauces. They are also used in some Indian bread. The dark seeds are also popular as a crunchy topping for western breads and biscuits, savory and sweet. The dark seeds are used extensively as a filling or baking ingredient in German and Eastern European breads, cakes, biscuits and pastries. Delicious pastries and a yeasted poppy seed roll are typical celebration treats baked for Christmas and other festive occasions. They are also sprinkled generously over cooked noodles, or sweetened with honey and made into a dessert dip or sauce. Dry fried seeds are an interesting addition to salads dressings, for example in potato, tomato, egg or pasta salads or coleslaw. Both white and black seeds can be sprouted to add to salads, sandwiches and in mixed vegetable dishes.