Poppy Seed Cake

Poppy Seed Cake

Thousands of years of history
(Poppy Seeds)

The blue poppy seed is an oilseed obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). The miniature kidney-shaped seeds have been harvested from dried seed pods by multiple civilizations throughout the world for over 3,000 years. 

The earliest documentation of poppy seeds was from the fourth B.C.; the seeds referenced in lower Mesopotamia, which is modern day Southwest Asia and Southeast Europe. The seeds are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and North Africa.

Blue Poppy Seeds

The earliest use of the opium poppy was as a source of food.  The seeds and oil for food date back to the fourth millennium B.C.  The seeds were an ingredient in many early foods, and they were also pressed to extract poppy seed oil. 

The ancient Greeks and Sumerians ate poppy seeds to treat stomach ailments.  The Greeks, who originated the Olympics and many athletic events still practiced today, also used poppy seeds for strength and good health.

The opium poppy was not referenced for its medicinal properties for another two thousand years in the modern-day Turkey and Iran regions of the world.   Poppy seeds were documented in the Ebers Papyrus scroll in 1550 B.C. to be used by the Egyptians as a sedative.  As early as the second century A.D., Islamic and Arabian countries used opium as a medicine and narcotic.  Today, the medical grade poppy plants, where the morphine is extracted are primarily grown and harvested in Australia and Spain.

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Poppy seeds for edible uses today are mainly grown in Eastern Europe in countries, such as Turkey and the Czech Republic. Edible poppy seeds are pressed for oil to be used in soap, birdseed, and making livestock feed. The seeds are used in many baked goods, dressings, and as a topping for various entrees.