Monday, May 11, 2015

Poppy Seeds: Magical Powers of Invisibility

The poppy seed is mentioned in ancient medical texts from many civilizations. For instance, the Egyptian papyrus scroll named Ebers Papyrus, written c. 1550 BC, lists poppy seed as a sedative. The Minoan civilization (approximately 2700 to 1450 BC), a Bronze Age civilization which arose on the island of Crete, cultivated poppies for their sanz seed. The Sumerians are another civilization that grew poppy seeds. Poppy seeds have long been used as a folk remedy to aid sleeping, promote fertility and wealth, and even to provide supposed magical powers of invisibility.

According to The Joy of Cooking, "the most desirable come from Holland and are a slate-blue color." The color of poppy seeds is important in some uses. When used as a thickener in some dishes, white poppy seeds are preferred, having less impact on the color of the food. In other dishes, black poppy seeds are preferred, for maximum impact.

Since poppy seeds are relatively expensive, they are sometimes mixed with the seeds of Amaranthus paniculatus, which closely resemble poppy seeds.

Poppy seed is a nutritionally dense spice with high levels of essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Use by cuisine

Turkish poppy-seed cake

Poppy seeds are used around the world in various cuisines.

In India, Iran and Turkey poppy seeds are known as khashkhaash or haşhaş and are considered highly nutritious, mostly added in dough while baking bread, and recommended for pregnant women and new mothers.
European cuisine
German Mohnstollen

The seeds of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) are widely consumed in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. The sugared, milled mature seeds are eaten with pasta, or they are boiled with milk and used as filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry. Milling of mature seeds is carried out either industrially or at home, where it is generally done with a manual poppy seed mill.

Poppy seeds are widely used in Austrian, Croatian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Turkish and Ukrainian cuisines.

The states of former Yugoslavia (notably Macedonia and Serbia, but also Croatia and Bosnia) have a long tradition of preparing poppy seed pastry (strudel, baklava, pajgle) and dishes (macaroni with poppy seeds).
Polish makowiec, Slovak makovník, a nut roll filled with poppy seed paste

In Lithuania and Eastern Slovakia, a traditional meal is prepared for the Kūčios (Christmas Eve) dinner from the poppy seeds. They are ground and mixed with water; round yeast biscuits (kūčiukai; bobalky in Slovak) are soaked in the resulting poppy seed 'milk' (poppy milk) and served cold.

In Central Europe, poppy strudel is very popular, especially during Christmas. In the countries belonging to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, poppy seed pastries called Mohnkuchen are often eaten around Christmas time.[13]
Jewish cuisine

In Jewish cuisine, pastries filled with black poppy seeds in a sugary paste are traditional during Purim, which occurs exactly one month before Passover and approximately a month before Easter. Traditional pastries include poppy seed kalács and hamantashen, both sometimes known as beigli (also spelled bejgli). In Israeli cuisine, poppy seed hamantashen is the main traditional food eaten at Purim. Poppy seed pastries are common in Jewish bakeries and delicatessens throughout the United States.
Indian cuisine

In Indian cuisine white poppy seeds are added for thickness, texture and also give added flavor to the recipe. Commonly used in the preparation of korma, ground poppy seed, along with coconut and other spices, are combined as the masala to be added at the end of the cooking step. It is quite hard to grind them when raw, so they are normally dry fried, and then mixed with a little water to get the right paste consistency.

Words for poppy seed paste include Assamese – Aafu guti (আফু গুতি), Hindi/Marathi – Khas Khas (खस खस), Oriya – Posta, Bengali – Posto, Kannada – Gasagase (ಗಸಗಸೆ) or Telugu gasagasa (గసగసాలు) or gasagasaalu or Tamil Kasa kasaa (கஸகஸ) or Malayalam – (കസ് കസ്).

Poppy seeds are widely used in Maharashtrian cuisine , Gujarati cuisine, Andhra cuisine, Bihari cuisine, Bengali cuisine, Oriya cuisine, and Malabar cuisine (Northern Kerala).

In Maharashtra, poppy seeds (called खस खस in Marathi) are used to garnish anarsa (अनारसा), a special sweet prepared during the festival of Diwali. It is also added in boiling milk sometimes.

In Gujarat, poppy seeds are mostly used in sweets. The most common use is to garnish on a traditional Gujarati sweet – Ladoo.

In Bengal (West Bengal and Bangladesh), white poppy seeds are called posto পোস্তো). They are very popular and are used as the main ingredient in a variety of dishes.[citation needed] One of the most popular[peacock term] dishes is aloo posto (potato and poppy seeds) which consists of a large amount of ground poppy seeds cooked together with potatoes and made into a smooth, rich product, which is sometimes eaten with rice. There are many variants to this basic dish, replacing or complementing the potatoes with such ingredients as onions (pnyaj posto), Ridged Luffa (jhinge posto), chicken (murgi posto), and possibly the most popular prawns (chingri posto). The cooked poppy seeds are sometimes served without any accompanying ingredients at all. The consistency of the dish may vary depending on local or household traditions. There are many other posto dishes. Chadachadi is a dish from Bengali cuisine and includes long strips of vegetables, sometimes with the stalks of leafy greens added, all lightly seasoned with spices like mustard or poppy seeds and flavored with a phoron. One dish involves grilling patties made from posto, sometimes frying them (posto-r bora). Another dish involves simply mixing uncooked ground poppy seeds (kancha posto) with mustard oil, chopped green chili peppers, fresh onions and rice.

In Karnataka cuisine, Gasagase Payasa (Kannada: ಗಸಗಸೆ ಪಾಯಸ) is very popular in southern part of the South Indian state of Karnataka. It is a liquid dessert made out of white poppy seeds, jaggery, coconut and milk. Andhra cuisine also uses white poppy seeds, called Gasaalu (గసాలు) in Telugu, in various recipes.

The seeds themselves do not contain significant amounts of opiates. But a poppy tea consumed in some areas and often referred to as doda has been controversial for containing ground opium poppy plant, especially the seed head, and contains significant levels of opiates.[14] Popular in some South Asian communities, doda is created by grinding dried poppy husks or poppy seeds into a fine powder and then ingesting the mix with hot water or tea. In Canada, doda is made from poppy plants brought in from Afghanistan and Arizona under the guise of legal purposes such as floral arrangements, but is sold illegally from some meat markets.[15]