A white bowl full of poppy seeds.
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If you’ve never seen poppy seeds, you may wonder what these tiny dark specks are doing all over your bagel. Poppy seeds are often used in baked goods, giving the product a slight nutty, sweet/spicy taste, a crunchy texture, and a unique decoration.

There are many different types of poppy seeds, including blue and white poppy seeds. The blue seed, which almost appears black, is the most common poppy seed used in the United States, but Middle Eastern cuisine is more familiar with the white poppy seed. Poppy seeds originate from the opium poppy plant (papaver somniferum), and yes, this is the plant that opium drugs are derived. The pod of the plant produces latex containing a variety of opioids, such as morphine and codeine. However, the dried poppy seed used for culinary purposes are processed to have a very low opium alkaloid content, which is why poppy seeds are legal to use in the kitchen. Nevertheless, it’s important to buy poppy seeds from reputable companies to avoid potential contamination.

Besides using poppy seeds to sprinkle on bagels, buns or other breads, bake them into muffins, cakes or pastries. Use them in salad dressings or on top of fruit, or add them to noodles or pasta. Toast poppy seeds before using to release their oils and bring out their flavor. Simply place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Store poppy seed in a container with a tight-fitting lid and place in a cool, dark cupboard, away from direct heat or sunlight. Stored properly, commercially packaged poppy seeds will keep its quality for 3-4 years.

Poppy seeds may be small, but they are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of calcium, a good source of iron and for every ounce, they contain 5 grams of protein and about 6 grams of dietary fiber. Poppy seeds are relatively expensive, as they are largely imported, so use them with purpose!

 

Poppy Seed Dressing

¼ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon honey

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Store in a mason jar with a lid in the refrigerator and use within 3-5 days.

Yield: 4 servings, 2 Tablespoons each

 

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 60 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 80 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 2 grams protein

 

Sources:

Beach, C. (2019, March 16). Unwashed poppy seeds under fire on Capitol Hill and around the world. Food Safety News. https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2019/03/unwashed-poppy-seeds-under-fire-on-capitol-hill-and-around-the-world/

Goesch, H. (2016, July 1). 9 super seeds are small but mighty. Food and Nutrition. https://foodandnutrition.org/july-august-2016/9-super-seeds-small-mighty/

 

This blog post first appeared in the Pantagraph on February 10, 2021.