The poppy and its fragile beauty

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The seeds of the iconic red poppy have been in our lands for many years, germinating in poorly maintained soil.
Possessing a poetic fragility, the use of the beautiful and characteristic red poppy flowers dates back to ancient Egyptian and Arab civilizations, which were in charge of exporting them to other countries such as Persia and India.
Today the use of poppy has spread throughout the world, being very popular in Mediterranean cuisine.


The poppyPapaver rhoeas) is an annual plant, coarse, bristling with stiff, finely denticulate hairs, which can reach 75cm in height.
The root is thin, perpendicular, almost sitting and fibrous.
The stem is between three and six decimeters, branchy and erect.
The leaves are alternate, with oblong lobes, lanceolate, acute and toothed.
The flowers are large, generally red (although there are other colors), consisting of a corolla of four crossed petals, broad, folded, whole or irregularly scalloped at the edges, generally of uniform color.
They are supported by long and erect terminal peduncles, provided with extended hairs.
The fruit is an oval capsule, more rounded at the base, hairless, containing numerous internal partitions loaded with blackish seeds.

poppy plants

Parts of the plant that are used

The petals and the seeds. The petals have a strong and unpleasant odor; its taste is bitter.
The seeds are used to decorate breads and cakes and to flavor dishes.
The flowers and seed capsules, fresh or dried, are used for ornamental purposes.

Chemical composition

The poppy petals owe their characteristic red color to the presence of anthocyanins, Together with the rhoeadic acids Y papaveric. They also contain isoquinoline alkaloids as the papaverine Y mucilage.

Poppy cultivation

The simplest way to obtain poppies is from seeds, which germinate easily. It should be done in late winter or early spring.
When sowing them, because they are really tiny, it is advisable to mix them with sand to increase their volume and place them on the surface, without covering them.
Not very demanding in terms of soil, they do well even in poor and rather arid substrates. The important thing is that it has good drainage so that you never have excessive humidity.
Watering should be moderate and never excessive, with a frequency of between one and two times a week, as long as the soil is already dry.
Due to their fragility, it is important to protect them from the wind and drafts in general.
They are plants that grow very well in full light and preferably in direct sunlight for much of the day.
It is preferable not to fertilize them. They bloom towards the end of spring and beginning of summer.
Once the flowering is finished, the fruit is obtained, which is a capsule full of seeds, which can be used in food as condiments, or saved to obtain new plants.

Field of poppies

Collection, drying and conservation

The seed harvest takes place during the summer.
To do this, the seed capsules are cut and placed upside down inside an envelope or paper bag.
This bag is tied and hung in a cool, dry place for about two weeks.
After that time, the capsules are opened and shaken so that the seeds fall towards the bottom of the bag.
After discarding the dry remains of the capsules, the seeds are stored in a clean, dry jar.

Medicinal properties of poppies

The poppy contains isoquinoline alkaloids as the rhoeadina and the papaverine, papaveric acid Y meconic acid, in addition to mucilage Y tannins.
All this gives it properties as a plant sedative and antispasmodic, which helps fight insomnia.
Being a gentle and natural relaxant of the nervous systemIts use is recommended in situations of stress and anxiety, being a useful remedy against nervous irritability.
Is protective of respiratory mucosa, thanks to its richness in mucilage.
The mucilages give the poppy its antitussive action, making it effective to relieve different types of cough.

How to consume poppies

Home remedies can be prepared from poppy flowers.
The dried and chopped petals can be prepared as an infusion, generally mixed with other plants.
The infusion is dark red in color and has a neutral flavor. Taking this infusion can be repeated up to three times a day.
There are also presentations in powder, alcoholic tincture (30-40 daily drops dissolved in water or fruit juice, three times a day), in liquid extract, in capsules and in antitussive syrup.

Poppy infusion for insomnia

Poppy is a mild and natural sedative, but to be effective on adults, it must be combined with other plants with a stronger effect such as valerian or passionflower.
An infusion against insomnia can be prepared by combining equal parts of poppy petals with other calming plants such as linden, valerian, lemon balm and passionflower.
To prepare it, boil one tablespoon of the mixture per cup of water for one minute. Strain and let it rest for another ten minutes.
Ideally, drink half a cup after dinner and another half just before bed. To neutralize the flavor of valerian, it can be sweetened with a little honey.

The entry The poppy and its fragile beauty was first published in Garden Flowers.

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