Thursday, November 15, 2007

Poppy seed bagels and how to grow them

My most favorite bagel has always been plain with poppy seeds. I like poppy seeds so much that I keep an extra jar of them to sprinkle into the melting butter on my bagel after I toast it. Yum! Besides eating them though, another reason to grow them is for their beauty.
Years and years ago we went to the "hill country" of Texas to visit The Antique Rose Emporium (they mail order but go to the link and look at the wonderful pics of their garden) and purchase some old rose varieties. They had the most magnificent display of double flowered poppies I had ever seen. Gorgeous.
So, this year I decided for the second time in my life, the first being a failure, to grow bread seed poppies to supply myself ,and only myself, with organic poppies for my bagels. Since no one else in my family really likes them, they will be mine all mine.

Most poppies are predominately organically grown--- they don't really have many bugs that eat them ---so they are not sprayed with poisons. However they do use chemical fertilizers to grow them so that is why I would like to try and grow my own---completely organic. The only way to go of course.
So, recently I selected a few for the beauty of their flowers and I received the seeds not to long ago in the mail. In the next months or so it will be about time to plant them so I am gathering together my sowing information, supplies and techniques so I will get the best germination rate I can. I do have a few in my garden already (one color only and no doubles) and they will begin to appear in the not to distant future to live through the winter and flower early in the spring. When I see them---I will plant my others.

I purchased a number of different colors and styles including annual poppy somniferum: double black and hens and chicks. I also have papaver paeniflorum (peony flowered) bombast rose, bombast red and antique flemish. Lastly I am growing a perennial poppy (papaver orientalis) called coral reef. Supposedly all poppy seeds are edible but traditionally papaver somniferum and it's very close kissing cousin papaver paeniflorum are used for the seeds we buy in the stores and get on our pre made bread products.

Though there are many many different varieties of poppies, when you speak poppies most people immediately think of the the variety grown for opium. That would be the species somniferum. This poppy has a latex containing several important alkaloids in the immature seed capsules. Cuts are made in the walls of the green seed pods to collect the milky exudation to be dried out and used for medical reasons. The plant itself is one of the most important medicinal plants in the world. 6 alkaloids are collected from the dried out portion of the milky exudation and all 6 are used medically.
Papaver somniferum is a self-seeding annual. It is a true annual in that it grows, flowers, sets seeds, and dies in a single season. It is distinctly different looking from Papaver orientale, which is a perennial, so anyone who knows poppies will know it is not "that" species. People who are unfamiliar with the genus don't have any idea of what it is.
According to the many stores of drug testing at work you will hear both "no, the poppies in bread won't test you positive" and "yes, they will".
Opium poppy seeds have been tested many times. However in the not to distant past supposedly Myth Busters (the t.v. show on sci-fi channel) dealt with this issue and laid it to rest by finding that "yes, it will show up" in a drug test if you eat poppy seed breads, rolls, or muffins. Supposedly it only takes a couple of bagels/rolls. So---if you eat them don't do it the day before your drug test :-)

Two things I would like to leave you with before you go are:

A really good article from Harper's Magazine on growing poppies. It is about a man who got in trouble for it. Written back in the late 1990's I believe it is long, but interesting. It is entitled "Opium made easy" and written by Michael Pollan. I am almost positive it is the same Michael Pollan that wrote "The Omnivores Dilemma".

And also a super great seed germination guide and site called Tom Clothier's Garden Walk. It tells temperature, light or darkness requirements, length to average germination and any other special requirements like stratification of perennials, annuals, tree seeds etc. The list of plants (in latin) is very extensive so well worth printing it out for future use. It also has lots of other article on soil mixes, pests and on and on. Good link I thought since heat and light go a long way in determining how well your seeds germinate.


Katie said...

Good luck. I can't wait to hear about all of it the growing/the harvesting/ the baking....

Cheryl said...

I love Bombast Rose poppies! I grew masses of them two summers ago, but my favorite seed company didn't bring them out this year for some reason, so we had to go without.
The same company carries a variety called the "Florist's Poppy" that produces amazing huge seed pods full of seeds for baking. I've been tempted to try them, maybe I will this year.
Can't wait to see photos of your garden next summer!