Poppies are herbaceous plants which are fabled for their colour appearance and as a symbol of sleep, peace and death.
Ancient Myths have it that Poppies were used as offerings to the dead, while Classical Mythology interpretes the bright scarlet colour as a promise of resurrection after death. On the other hand, Poppies are referred to as Flowers of Love in Persian literature.
HISTORY & CULTIVATION
Poppies started to be grown as early as 3, 400 B.C, when the Opium Poppy was cultivated in Southwest Asia (Mesopotamia). It was nicknamed The Joy Plant.
The Assyrians acquired Poppies from the Sumerians, and passed them on to the Egyptians. The cultivation spread along the Silk Road, gradually reaching China where it stroke the Opium Wars in the mid 1800s.
Drug traffickers hide their identity to escape law enforcement regulations. However, they don’t step back from branding their products with logos (for instance, chicken and camels), in order to maintain customer loyalty.
Poppies are cultivated as ornamental plants, the most recognised species being the Shirley Poppy, Iceland Poppy and California Poppy.
Poppies are grown along highways in some countries to control soil erosion.
As they are rich in oil, carbohydates, calcium and protein, Poppy seeds are used to produce Poppy oil (cooking oil). The latter is frequently used in salad dressings.
Opium Poppy is used in analgesics, for e.g. Morphine and Heroin. Ancient Egyptian doctors would prescribe Poppy seeds to their patients, as these would induce sleep and give relief to the bowels. Codeine is another component of Opium Poppy which is used in medicines against cough.
Poppies are used in paints and varnishes. The oldest known oil paintings date back to 650 AD, from the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan. Greek writers and Early Christian monks also used painting recipes involving the use of Poppy oil to seal and protect paintings from water.
Poppy Seed Bagels and Poppu Seed Cakes are greatly praised for their flavours. Other Poppy components are sometimes added to pastries.
Poppies are used in cosmetic products. Northstar Lipids, a UK specialist in the field of high value natural oils, has begun manufacturing White Poppy seed oil for a long time now. The oil is used in hair and skin conditioning treatments, as it has high levels of fatty acids and essential nutrients.
Symbolizing ‘eternal sleep’, Poppies are often used as emblems on tombstones. This is somehow demonstrated in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, whereby the magical Poppy field threatens to make the protagonists sleep forever.
Plastic Poppies are now being worn on the lapel by politicians on Remembrance days.
A Little Extra
Poppies feature on the back of $20 Canadian banknotes.