Poppy Seeds

Appears in

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague


By Rick Rodgers

Published 2002

One of the most distinctive flavors of the central European kitchen, poppy seeds have a mildly nutty flavor. When central European cooks talk about a poppy seed cake, they don’t just mean one with a couple of tablespoons: Their cakes are black from the amount of seeds used. And there are almost a million poppy seeds to a pound!

The tiny, gray-black, ripe seeds of Papaver somniferum are used in baking. Unripe poppy seeds have narcotic qualities, and opium is extracted from the unripe seed capsules. Not surprisingly, the cultivation of these poppies is prohibited in the United States, so any poppy seeds you buy here will be imported. Poppy seeds have a high oil content that makes them susceptible to rancidity, and when you add this factor to the shipping time, freshness can be a problem.

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