This site works better with JavaScript enabled!

[ Plant part | Family | Aroma | Chemistry | Origin | Etymology | Discussion | Bottom ]

Poppy (Papaver somniferum L.)

Synonyms

pharmaceuticalSemen Papaveris
AlbanianLulëkuqe
Amharicፓፒ
Papi
Arabicخشخاش, أبو النوم
خَشْخاش, أَبُو الْنُوم
Khashkhash, Abu an-num, Abu al-num, Abu an-noom, Abu al-noom
Aramaicܡܝܩܘܢ
Maikon
Armenian Մեկոն, Մեկոնի Կուտ
Megon, Mekon; Megoni Good, Mekoni Kut (seeds)
Assameseআফু গুটি
Aphu guti
AzeriXaş-xaş
Хаш-хаш
BasqueLobelarr
BelarusianМак, Опіумны мак
Mak, Opiumny mak
Bengaliপোস্ত, পোস্ত দানা
Post, Posto dana
BretonRoz-moc’h
BulgarianГрадински мак, Опиев мак, Маково семе
Gradinski mak, Opiev mak; Makovo seme (seeds)
BurmeseBhainzi
CatalanCascall, Herba dormidora
Chinese
(Cantonese)
櫻粟殼 [yìng suhk hohk]
Ying suhk hohk
Chinese
(Mandarin)
櫻粟殼 [yīng sù qiào], 罂粟 [yīng sù]
Ying su qiao, Ying su
Copticⲭⲁⲩⲗⲁⲛ, ⲛⲉⲙⲁⲛ
Khaulan, Neman
CroatianMak
CzechMák, Mák setý
DanishOpiumvalmue (plant); Birkes, Valmue-frø (seeds)
Dhivehiއަފިހުން, ކަސްކަސާ
Afihun, Kaskasaa
DutchMaanzaad, Slaapbol, Slaappapaver, Heulbol, Maankop
EnglishOpium poppy, Garden poppy
EsperantoPapavo, Papavosemo
EstonianMagun, Unimagun, Moon, Mooniseemned
Farsiخشخاش
Khash-khash, Shagheyegh
FinnishUnikko, Oopiumiunikko
FrenchPavot somnifère, Pavot à opium, Pavot des jardins
GaelicCodalion, Paipin
GalicianMapoula, Sementes de Mapoula, Adormideira, Durmideira
GaroAping Bipang
Georgianყაყაჩო, ყაყაჩოს თესლი, ხოშხოში
Khoshkhoshi, Q’aq’acho, Xoshxoshi, Qaqacho; Q’aq’achos tesli, Qaqachos tesli (seeds)
GermanMohn, Schlafmohn, Gartenmohn, Ölmohn, Opiummohn,
GreekΠαπαρούνα, Αφιόνι
Paparouna, Afioni
Greek (Old)Μήκων
Mekon
Gujaratiખસખસ
Khas-khas
Hebrewפרג
פֶּרֶג
Pereg
Hindiअफीम पोस्त, खसखस, पोस्ता
Aphim posta, Khaskhas, Posta
HungarianMák, Kerti mák
IcelandicValmúafræ, Birki
IrishPoipín
ItalianPapavero (sonnifero)
Japanese芥子, 罌粟
けし
ケシ, ポピー
Keshi, Papi
Kannadaಅಫೀಮು, ಗಸಗಸೆ
Aphimu, Gasagase
Kashmiriخشخاش
Khash-khash
KazakhКөкнәр
Köknär
KhasiAphim
Korean아편, 포피, 양귀비
Apyeon, Apyon, Popi, Yanggwibi
Laoຝິ່ນ, ຕົ້ນຝິ່ນ, ຢາຢາງ
Fin, Ya yang
LatinPapaver
LatvianMagone
LithuanianAguonos, Daržinė aguona
MacedonianМак, Афион, Булка (?)
Mak, Afion, Bulka
MalayKas Kas
Malayalamകസ്കസ്, കറുപ്പ്
Kaskasu, Karuppu
MaltesePeprina
Marathiखसखस
Khas-Khas
MongolianНамуу
Namuu
Naga (Angami)Popi
Naga (Ao)Kanitong
Nepaliअफिम
Aphim
NorwegianValmue, Opiumsvalmue
Oriyaପୋସ୍ତା, ପୋସ୍ତକ
Aphima, Posta, Postak
PolishMak lekarski
PortuguesePapoila, Dormideira; Papoula (Brazil)
Punjabiਪੋਸਤ, ਖਸਖਸ
Post, Khaskhas
RomanianMac, Mac de gradină, Mac somnifer
RussianМак снотворный, Опийный мак
Mak snotvornyj, Opijnyj mak
SanskritAhiphena
SantaliPosta
SerbianМак
Mak
SlovakMak siaty, Mak
SlovenianVrtni mak
SpanishAbaba, Adormidera (soporifera), Amapola, Amapola real, Semillas de Amapola
SwedishVallmo, Opiumvallmo
Tamilகசகசா, போஸ்தக்காய்
Casacasa, Kasakasa, Postakkai
Teluguగసగసాలు, పోస్తుకాయ, అభిని
Abhini, Gasagasaalu, Postukaya
Thaiต้นฝิ่น, ฝิ่น
Ton fin, Fin
Tuluಗಸ್‌ಗಸೆ
Gasugase
TurkishGelincik çiçeği, Haşhaş; Haşhaş tohumu (seeds)
TurkmenLäle, Läbik
Ләле, Ләбик
UkrainianМ’ак снодійний
Mak snodijnyj
Urduخشخاش, پوست
Khashkhash, Post
UzbekLolaqizg’aldoq
Лолақизғалдоқ
VietnameseCây thuốc phiện, Vây anh túc
Cay thuoc phien, Vay anh tuc
WelshPabi
Yiddishמאָנדל, מאָן
Mondl, Mon
Papaver somniferum: Poppy flower
Poppy flower
Papaver somniferum: Poppy seed
Poppy seeds (regular gray and Indian white types)
Used plant part

Ripe seeds.
The drug opium is prepared from the unripe capsules.

Plant family

Papaver­aceae (poppy family).

Sensory quality

Nutty and pleasant.

Main constituents

Poppy seeds contain 40 to 50% of fatty oil, which is obtained by cold pressing in yields of only 12 to 18%. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids (iodine index is 133 to 144): 60% linoleic acid, 30% oleic acid, 3% linolenic acid (triply unsaturated; essential for human nutrition) and less than 10% saturated fats.

Among the volatile components of poppy seeds, aliphatic hydrocarbons and aldehydes have been reported. 2-Pentylfurane is a key aroma compound.

Papaver somniferum: Opium poppy capsule
Poppy pod
Papaver somniferum: Poppy flower
Poppy flower

www.botanikus.de

Opium is the dried latex from unripe seed capsules; each capsule yields about 20 to 50 mg. Besides wax, resin, proteins and sugars, it contains approxi­mately 20% of alkaloids, of which morphine (morphin, typically, 12%) is the most important. Opium for smoking (chandu [चण्डू]) is roasted over fire and fermented, which reduces the alkaloid content to about one quarter and leads to the development of a typical flavour.

Raw opium is in our days rarely used medically; normally, it is either standardized (to exactly 10% morphine), or the different alkaloids are separated and applied in pure form to the patients.

Opium contains two families of alkaloids: Phenanthrene-type alkaloids include morphine (7 to 23%), codeine (max. 3%), thebaine (max. 3%, typically much lower) and the synthetic heroin. Benzylisochinoline-type alkaloids are more common in the plant kingdom; in opium, they are represented by narcotine (=noscapine, up to 12%), papaverine (max. 1.5%) and narceine (0.2%). Most of these have their special field of application in modern medicine.

Official opium production is 2000 tons per year, mostly by India and Turkey.

Papaver somniferum: Poppy flower and unripe capsules
Poppy flower and unripe pods

The alkaloid content of poppy seeds is low (50 ppm) and cannot have any pharma­ceutical effect. It is, however, high enough that morphine can be detected in the urine after heavy poppy seed consume, which might make for an unpleasant surprise in drug tests.

Origin

Poppy is generally believed to stem from West Asia, although more recently a West Mediterranean origin was suggested. In any case, poppy was cultivated in Europe since the Neolithic era; it is probably one of the earliest plants cultivated by men in that region.

Etymology

The genus name Papaver is Classical Latin for the poppy plant. It appears to have no Indo–European cognates and cannot be explained further. The Latin word lives today in several Romance languages, e. g. French pavot and Portu­guese papoila. It is also the source of English poppy (Old English popæg); Amharic papi [ፓፒ] belongs to the same kin, probably being a recent loan. In Hungarian, pipacs means the related wild plant corn poppy (Flander’s poppy, Papaver rhoes).

Papaver rhoes: Flander’s poppy flowers
Corn poppy is a wild plant in Europe
Eschscholtzia californica: California golden poppy
Golden poppy is a popular ornamental

The species name somniferum (Latin somnus sleep and ferre bring) refers to the narcotic properties of opium, as does Spanish adormidera (from Latin dormire to sleep). Cf. also an Arabic name of poppy, abu an-num [ابو النوم] father of sleep.

The German name of poppy, Mohn, closely related to Yiddish mon [מאָן] and Dutch maan, has a large number of cognates in other Indo–European tongues: In Northern Germanic tongues, we find Norwegian and Danish valmue and Swedish vallmo, which all go back to Old Norse valmugi. In modern Slavonic tongues, the name is almost universally mak [мак], deriving from Old Slavonic maku; cf. also Romanian mac and Latvian magone. Further members of that kin are Old Greek mekon [μήκων] and Armenian megon [մեկոն]. Despite its wide distribution, there is no etymology known for these names; they probably all stem from an ancient tongue of the Mediterranean now lost.

Modern Greek does not have that word mekon any­more: Its term for poppy is papa­rouna [παπα­ρούνα], derived from Latin papaver.

From West Asia to South-East Asia, related names for poppy are found in a huge area: Turkish haşhaş, Georgian khoshkhoshi [ხოშხოში], Kurdish khash-khash [خةشخاش], Farsi and Urdu khash-khash [خشخاش], Hindi und Gujarati khas-khas [खसखस, ખસખસ], Telugu gasagasaalu [గసగసాలు], Tamil casa casa [கசகசா], Dhivehi kaskasaa [ކަސްކަސާ] and finally Malay kas kas. I do not know where these names originate from, yet I notice similar Sanskrit names: Khaskhasa [खस्खस] and shasa [षस].

Papaver bracteatum: Ornamental poppy
An ornamental poppy flower (probably P. bracteatum)

Some Indian languages form their word for poppy from another root: Bengali posto [পোস্তো], Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu post [पोस्त, ਪੋਸਤ, پوست], Telugu postukaya [పోస్తుకాయ] and Tamil postakkai [போஸ்தக்காய்]. In the early colonial era, that name appears in English as post or posto, where it denoted not only the poppy plant, but also a narcotic beverage prepared from poppy heads which was, in the 17.th century, highly popular at the Moghul courts of Northern India, because alcohol was forbidden due to religious restrictions.

The term opium for the concentrated latex obtained from unripe capsules is used since Greco-Roman times; it is related to Greek opos [ὄπος] sap, juice of plants. The word was transferred to Arabic (ubim [أوبيم]) and Farsi (afyun [افیون]); Sanskrit ahiphena [अहिफेन] poppy, opium belongs to the same kin, but was secondarily associated with ahi [अहि] snake and phena [फेन] saliva, foam, froth, in reference to the adverse effects of continued opium intake. Related terms are Marathi aphu or aphin [अफू, अफीण] and Telugu abhini [అభిని] opium. Cf. also Korean apyon [아편] and Chinese yapian [鸦片] opium.

The Japanese kanji signs 芥子 may refer to two different plants: In the meaning poppy, they are pronounced keshi [けし], yet if spoken karashi [からし] they mean black oder white mustard.

Selected Links

Indian Spices: Poppy Seeds (indianetzone.com) Ilkas und Ullis Kochecke: Mohn (rezkonv.de via archive.org) Plant Cultures: Opium Poppy A Pinch of Poppy Seeds (www.apinchof.com) Transport Information Service: Poppy seeds Sorting Papaver names (www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au) Pflanzen des Capitulare de Villis: Mohn (biozac.de) The Iliad (translated by Samuel Butler) (uoregon.edu via archive.org) Linklist about the Iliad (encyclopedia.com) The Odyssey (translated by Samuel Butler) Homer, Iliad (μῆνιν ἄειδε θεά, Perseus Project) Homer, Odyssey (ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Perseus Project) The Chicago Homer Greek – English – Greek Lexicon (kypros.org) Schlafmohn (giftpflanzen.de) Desirable Herb and Spice Varieties: Poppy scienceblogs.de: Lesenswerter Lesetip zur Ilias [Ἰλιάς] The Pernicious Opium Poppy Recipe: Germknödel (Austrian yeast dumpling) (thepassionatecook.typepad.com) Recipe: Mohnstrudel (poppy seed strudel) (globetrotters.ch) Rezept: Germknödel (chefkoch.de) Rezept: Mohnstrudel (hausfrauenseite.de) Recipe: Homentashn [המנטאַשן] (Poppy Pockets) Rezept: Krautstrudel (káposztás rétes) (kochbaeren.de) Opium poppy (purdue.edu) Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: Opium Poppy


Papaver somniferum: Opium poppy flower
Opium poppy flower

www.rz.uni-karlsruhe.de

Poppy is an ancient cultigen; it is mentioned in the Ilias [Ἰλιάς], an epic ascribed to the legendary Greek poet Homeros [Ὅμερος]. The Ilias is, together with the con­temporary Odysseia [Ὀδυσσεία], by far the oldest European poetry and was probably fixed from oral tradition in the 8.th century, but it tells of events that might have happened five hundred years ago. It gives a unique insight in the thought and life of the ending Bronze Age, for it describes or at least mentions much of everyday life.

The Homeric epics are full of details of preclassic Greece — yet nutrition is quite neglected. Several kinds of cereals and breads are mentioned, but most amazingly, fish never appears on the table. One gets the impression that Bronze Age warriors were most fond of meats: dainymenoi krea t’ aspeta kai methy hedy [δαινύμενοι κρέα τ’ ἄσπετα καὶ μέθυ ἡδύ] feasting on abundant flesh and sweet wine and krea amph’ obeloisin peirein optan te periphradeos [κρέα ἀμφ’ ὀβελοῖσιν πείρειν ὀπτᾶν τε περιφραδέως] put meat on spits and roast it carefully are phrases the poet repeatedly chooses to describe the numerous feasts. The phrase methy hedy sweet wine is linguistically interesting, because both words derive from roots meaning sweet, but yet they are not akin to each other; see bear’s garlic and licorice for further explanations.

Papaver somniferum: Flowering opium poppy plants
Flowering poppy plants
Papaver somniferum: Red poppy flower and pods
Some poppy plants develop reddish flowers instead of the usual bluish purple
Papaver somniferum: Poppy plant with flower (Nepal)
Poppy plant with flower

Besides poppy, Homer mentions several other food plants: The most frequent references go to olives (olive oil, elaion [ἐλαίον] and olive tree, elaia [ἐλαία]), and even onion has an emergence as foodstuff (krommyon [κρόμμυον], see also bear’s garlic). Furthermore, a plant named selinon [σέλινον] appears which translators identify either as celery or parsley. The hues of Dawn (the goddess Eos [Ἠῶς]) are compared both with rose flowers (rhodo­daktylos [ῥοδο­δάκτυλος] rosy-fingered) and with saffron threads (kroko­peplos [κροκό­πεπλος] saffron-robed).

Lastly, in the Odysseia there is mention of an enigmatic plant moly [μῶλυ], which is used as a protection against evil magic powers. The word is sometimes speculated to mean garlic or a close relative; but the most common name of garlic in Classical Greek is skorodon [σκόροδον]. Others think it might have been snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), whose genus name means milk flower, quite in accord with Homer’s description: galakti de eikelon anthos [γάλακτι δὲ εἴκελον ἄνθος] yet the flower (was) like milk.

Homer’s influ­ence for the further cultural devel­opment of Europe is unques­tioned. When, approxi­mately in Homer’s lifetime, Greek culture rose to new glory with its sport festivals (see bay leaves about the Olympic Games), its poets and philosophers, the Greeks considered the events described in the Ilias and the Odysseia as belonging to their own great past. During the largest part of antiquity, Homer was called the divine poet. Interest in ancient poetry declined after the fall of the Roman Empire, but more than a millennium later, during the European Renais­sance, the educated class again began to read Homer. The interest in classic antiquity culminated in the excavation of the stage of Homer’s Ilias, ancient Troia, by H. Schliemann at the archeological site known as Hisarlık.

Although Homer is no longer taught in school, quotations from his work have survived even in today’s vernacular: So we speak of Homeric laughter (used to stimulate the lust for battle), of winged words (epea pteroenta [ἔπεα πτερόεντα]: words designed to fly to the interlocutor) and who has not ever heard of Skylla [Σκύλλα] and Charybdis [Χάρυβδις], two evils only one of which can be avoided?

The ancients valued poppy for the oil obtained from its seeds, which was put to culinary use. Ancient Greek physicians also knew about the narcotic and analgesic power of opium; however, Medieval European medicine did not use opium, partly because of religious bias against pain-reducing agents. Opium and its derivatives as illegal and addictive drugs are a comparatively young development in Europe.

Ancient sweetmeats and cakes often contained poppy seeds, frequently together with almonds or sesame seeds. These sweets were usually slightly peppered, which is a characteristic feature of ancient Mediterranean cooking (see also silphion on ancient Roman cuisine). The recipes moved from Rome to Byzantium, whence they entered the cuisines of Islâmic states in the Near East. An example is Turkish baklava (Greek baklava [μπακλαβά], Arabic baqlava [بقلاوة]), a mixture of honey and nuts wrapped in fillo [φύλλο] leaves. Its predecessors can be traced back to pre-Hellenistic Greece.

Papaver somniferum: Poppy fields in Waldviertel/Austria
Austrian poppy field

www.mohndorf.at

By trans­mission of the Ottoman Turks, the Near Eastern recipes entered Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Hungary) and finally arrived in Austria during the Austro–Hungarian Empire (Habsburg empire). Still today, sweet foods like pastry (Mehlspeisen, literally flour foods) are typical for Austrian cuisine, and are often even served as a main course.

The Austrian pastry known as Strudel (sometimes spelled shtrudel in English) consists of extremely thin, almost transparent, sheets of highly elastic dough (shaped and pulled by hand) enshrouding stuffings prepared with nuts, fresh cheese (Topfen) or fruits; poppy seeds are a very popular choice. Strudel is usually eaten dry; in our days, one sees it often served with a sweet vanilla sauce, which most Austrians consider an abomination. Common flavourings for the stuffing include lemon or orange zest (fresh or candied) and cinnamon. Many stuffings contain also raisins. In Hungary, there are savoury types of Strudel, e. g., with a paprika-flavoured cabbage stuffing (káposztás rétes), which have also been transferred to the Eastern parts of Austria.

Another great example for Austrian sweet cuisine utilizing poppy seeds is Germknödel, a large yeast dumpling stuffed with a very concentrated kind of plum jam (Powidl). Germ means yeast in Austria, although this is not standard German. The dumplings are steamed and served with powdered sugar, ground poppy seeds and molten butter. The recipe was introduced to Austria from Bohemia, today’s Czech Republic, where the dumplings are known as kynuté knedlíky.

Papaver somniferum: Opium poppy plant
Poppy plant, flowering
Papaver somniferum: Poppy plant
Poppy (plant with close to ripe capsules)

Pastry stuffed with poppy seeds (Mohn­taschen poppy pockets) are known in various Central and Eastern European countries; they are particularly associated with Yiddish baking (homentashn [המנטאַשן] or montashn [מאָנטאַשן]). France has croissants with poppy stuffings. Poppy seeds are often sprinkled on the surface of pastries, parti­cularly of the lye roll type, to de­velop a nutty flavour during the baking. This usage paral­lels that of sesame and nigella seeds in the Middle East.

Poppy oil, formerly an impor­tant foodstuff, is now a rare specialty and is produced only in small quantities; most common is a cold-pressed quality suited for salads (see sesame about vegetable oils in general). Poppy farmers in Western Europe are faced by numerous legal restrictions designed to prevent the production of opium. Yet, in Western European climate, poppy plants do not develop much alkaloid content and any opium produced there would be of comparably minor quality.

In Asia, poppy is also much cultivated, yet mostly not for culinary purposes, but for the production of opium. Actually, the infamous Golden Triangle located at the border between Thailand, Burma and Laos is not one of the most important production areas, since better alkaloid yields are archived at higher altitude. Hill tribes in these three coun­tries and also in Viet­nam and China use opium as the single tradi­tionaly luxury their hard life per­mits; the intro­duction of opium to ethnic Chinese or Viet­namese is, how­ever, a result of the colonial era and parti­cularly due to French and British politics. Other than in communi­ties with a long tradition of opium smoking, the poison had fatal con­sequences in both Vietnam and China.

In China, the British won the two Opium Wars (ya pian zhan zheng [鸦片战争]) (1840–42 and 1856–1860) and were granted the right to import opium to the Middle Kingdom; thus, they had both immediate profit and built up a large number of officials materially and mentally dependent of England and its dealers. The obvious consequence, large-scale corruption, accelerated the downfall of the Chinese Empire. In Vietnam, the French drew enormous profits from their monopolies on opium, salt and alcohol (starting around 1890) and kept the nobility loyal to France by generous supplies of opium.

Yet in Asia poppy is not unknown for cooking, either. Ground poppy seeds are a common thickening agent in the Moghul cooking style of Northern India (see onion and black cumin); a special crème–white variety was bred for light sauces. The cuisine of Bengal in North-East India often uses poppy, which harmonizes perfectly well with that lightly-flavoured cookind style (see also nigella). Poppy’s nutty taste is loved by the Japanese and used for the subtly flavoured dishes typical for Japan. The Japanese spice mixture shichimi togarashi (see Sichuan pepper) contains poppy seeds.



Unicode Encoded Validate using the WDG validator Validate using the VALIDOME validator

Top   Plant part   Family   Aroma   Chemistry   Origin   Etymology   Discussion   Bottom