Poppy Seeds

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Poppy seeds come from a west Asian plant, Papaver somniferum, that was cultivated by the ancient Sumerians. It’s the same plant whose immature seed capsules are cut to collect the latex called opium, a mixture of morphine, heroin, codeine, and other related alkaloid drugs. The seeds are harvested from the capsules after the latex flow has stopped. They may carry traces of opiate alkaloids as well, not enough to have an effect on the body, but enough to cause positive results in drug tests after the consumption of a poppy-flavored cake or pastry.