The flowers range in colour from white to red or lilac. The lilac coloured ones have a dark purple base. The seeds also come in a variety of shade, from black, or dark-blue, to yellow-white. The ones we have in Pakistan are white. The poppy plant grows to heights of between 50 to 150 centimetres tall. At one time they were grown in Mitcham, surrey, until the 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act clamped down on the use of opium based products, so beloved of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Laudanum was very popular in the 19th century and was given to children to put them to sleep. There are the obvious English literary figures who used opium, Thomas de Quincey famously admitted to using the narcotic in his book written in 1821,”Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is reputed to have been under the influence of opium when he wrote “Kubla Khan,” of which only a fragment remains. Coleridge refers to it as the ‘milk of paradise’ in these lines
‘For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of paradise’.
Here he is referring to Kubla Khan.
De Quincey writes of ‘the marvelous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or pain,’ and talks of the ‘cloudless serenity’ he felt while in an opium induced state. However it is extremely addictive and its use should not be countenanced.
In cookery poppy seeds can be used to thicken and flavour sauces, blended with tamarind to make a curry paste, and can be boiled in a little water with salt and oil then added to rice to give it a nutty flavour. They are used as a coating for breads and biscuits, of course.
In traditional medicine on the subcontinent they are used to treat coughs and asthma, but because of the narcotic effects of the unripe seeds, these are not used in prolonged treatments. To treat diarrhea, cook poppy seeds with green cardamoms and sugar, strain and drink the liquid. Poppy extracts are used to reduce fever, help in TB treatments and for kidney and liver complaints.
The recipe below is for a milk-based drink which will cool you down when the weather is hot. It is also good for the stomach and an energy booster. If you don’t like milk, you can use water instead.
1 litre milk
30 gr almonds
50 gr poppy seeds
4 green cardamoms, seeds removed and husks discarded
6 black peppercorns
sugar to taste
If the almonds have skins, plunge them in boiling water for a minute or two so that you can easily slip off the skins. Grind the poppy seeds very well. Then grind the cardamom seeds.
Next grind the almonds.
Put the black peppercorns, sugar and milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, put all the ingredients except ice in it and leave to cool.
Serve with ice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.