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Botanical Name: Papver somniferum
Hindi Name: Kushkhus
Indigenous to the Mediterranean region and Central Asia, poppy is the dried seed of an annual herb. In Europe poppy has been cultivated since ancient days, and is an ancient cultigen. Poppy has mention in the Iliad, an epic ascribed to the legendary Greek poet, Homer.
In India, it has been cultivated for many years in Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal, districts of Uttar Pradesh,and in Punjab.
The capsules and flowers are the parts that are used. The white poppy contains 21 different alkaloids of which morphine, narcotine, codeine and thebaine are the most important.
The composition of poppy seeds is as follows:
Poppy seeds contain 40-50 per cent of fatty oil, which is obtained by cold pressing. The seeds are rich in unsaturated fatty acids. The sap of the plant contains oxalic acid and opium.
In the ancient times poppy was valued for the oil obtained from its seeds; yet the narcotic and analgesic power of opium was well-known to Greek medicine. Opium as a drug is a comparatively young development in Europe. Opium is the dried latex from unripe seed capsules. Each seed capsule yields 20-50 mg opium.
Opium for smoking is roasted over fire and fermented, which reduces the alkaloid content to about one-quarter, and leads to the development of a typical flavour.
In Asia, opium ,is a cash crop, and is cultivated mostly for the production of opium. Raw opium is rarely used medically nowadays. It is either standarised to exactly 10 per cent morphine, or the different alkaloids are separated and applied in pure form to the patients. In to day's world, poppy oil is an unusual speciality, and is produced only in small quantities.
The most common use is a cold-pressed quality suited for salads. Indian poppy seeds are popularly used in carrot, and tomato dishes and in several types of dips. They are frequently sprinkled over chilled soups, savoury pastry crusts, rolls and other bakery products.
In Europe, poppy seeds are mostly used for confectionery, similar to the use of sesame in the Near East. Stuffings based on poppy are sometimes found in croissants and the Austrian dessert, strudel.
Another great example is Germknodel, which is steamed yeast dumplings stuffed with plum jam and served with powdered sugar, ground poppy seeds and melted butter. Ground poppy seeds are common thickening agent in the Mughlai cooking style of North India, to obtain the sweet, mild, nutty flavour and aroma.
Poppy's nutty taste is loved by the Japanese, and used for the subtly-flavoured dishes. The Japanese spice mixture, Shichimi togarashi, contains poppy seeds.
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