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The poppy is a decorative garden plant and you can use the seed pods for flower arrangements. Harvested and dried at the right time, poppy seeds can also be used in the kitchen.

In a nutshell

  • the most commonly cultivated poppies are blue and gray poppies
  • the capsules are harvested when they have turned grey-brown
  • it should be dry several days before harvesting the seeds
  • cut off only healthy capsules for cooking use
  • the empty capsules can be stored indefinitely, the seeds for a maximum of two years

Commonly cultivated poppies

There are around 100 different types of poppy worldwide, which have more or less large seed pods. Above all, the poppy capsules of gray and blue poppy are very large and decorative. They also contain many seeds that are later used in different ways in the kitchen. Other types of poppy are not used in the kitchen, but only for decoration, since the capsules contain too few seeds.
The most common species cultivated here are:

Turkish poppy, Papaver orientale
  • Gray poppy (Papaver canescens)
  • Blue poppy (Papaver somniferum)
  • Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
  • Turkish poppy (Papaver orientale)

Notice: Papaver somniferum is also known as the opium poppy. Only the milky juice contains opiates and there is no significant concentration in the seeds, which is why they are safe to eat.

harvest capsules

Depending on the strain, it takes four to six weeks after flowering ends for the pods to be ready for harvest. As a rule, the poppy seed capsules open by themselves and openings for the individual chambers can be seen under the upper rim. Then at the latest you should harvest the poppy seeds. In addition to the opened capsules, there is also the so-called closing poppy. These are often cultivars for commercial cultivation with capsules that do not open themselves, otherwise too many seeds would be lost during mechanical harvesting. These capsules are broken open at harvest and the seeds are sieved out.
If you have grown a door poppy, you can test whether the seeds are ripe by gently shaking the pods. If the seeds rattle, the capsules are ready for harvest.

No matter which type of poppy you want to harvest the capsules from, if you use the seeds in the kitchen, the plant must be healthy. Almost all types of poppy are susceptible to powdery mildew, capsules that are affected by it can be dried and used for decoration, but the poppy seeds usually taste unpleasant and musty and can even be harmful to health.
When harvesting, proceed as follows:

  • at least 2 days before no rain
  • choose a sunny day to harvest
  • Harvest early afternoon
  • Cut seed pods to a length of 20 - 30 cm

After harvesting, you can already carefully shake the first seeds into a bowl. Then tie the capsules together and hang them upside down in a dry place. Place a large vessel, such as a plastic tub, underneath so the remaining seeds that loosen as they dry don't just fall to the bottom.

Notice: If you have grown an enclosure poppy, also hang up the closed capsules so that they dry completely. Then crack open the capsules with a hammer and sift out the seeds.

Store seeds properly

The seeds of all types of poppy are susceptible to various storage pests such as food moths. Leave the loosened seeds in a dry place for a day or two so that any residual moisture can escape. Stir the poppy seeds from time to time so that they dry evenly.

The poppy seeds can be stored for up to two years. It is important that you store the seeds in containers that are as airtight as possible. Ideal are:

  • airtight storage containers
  • vacuum bag
  • Freezer (only for seeds that you will not use later for sowing)

Poppy seeds should always be kept unprocessed. Once the poppy has been ground, it becomes more attractive to storage pests. In addition, the content of valuable ingredients also decreases faster. The oil in particular can oxidize faster and the poppy tastes rancid.

Store seed pods properly

If you want to use the decorative capsules later, for example for flower arrangements or dried bouquets, you must also ensure that they are stored correctly. When the capsules and stalks are completely dry, they can be removed again. Put the bound capsules dissolved and loose in a box. To prevent dust from settling on it, you can loosely place a few sheets of newspaper over it.

Notice: Before you store the poppy seed pods, cut them to the same length and remove leftover leaves. Also make sure that there are no more seeds in it, so that no storage pests attack the seed pods.

frequently asked Questions

In which months is the poppy ready for harvest?

If sowed by the end of April at the latest, the capsules will be ready for harvest from the end of August.

Are all poppy varieties edible?

Basically, poppy is not poisonous. In the kitchen, however, only those varieties should be used that are explicitly intended for eating, because the morphine content in the seeds of other species can be questionable.

Can the capsules be dried in the oven?

You can also dry the capsules in the oven at a maximum of 50°C. To do this, place the capsules on a baking tray and leave the oven door slightly open.

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