Poppy Seed, Whole
Poppy seeds are the tiny seeds from the opium poppy flower that we use in all kinds of dishes. Poppy seeds' bouquet is mild and sweet, and accentuated by roasting or baking. Poppy seeds taste mild until heated, when it becomes nutty, with sweet-spicy under-tones.
Native to the Middle East, poppy flowers were cultivated as far back as the earliest civilizations. The ancient Sumerians grew poppies, and the seeds are mentioned in ancient medical texts from many civilizations. Poppy seeds have long been used as a folk remedy to aid sleeping, promote fertility and wealth, and even to provide supposed magical powers of invisibility.
Allspice carries two kinds of poppy seeds: blue [regular] and white [used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine]. There is actually very little difference in flavor between the two, so usage is more a question of aesthetics.
In Europe and America, blue-black colored poppy seeds are used principally for sweets and in baking. Add poppy seeds to cookies, cakes, breads and muffins to add a nutty flavor and texture. More adventuresome cooks use poppy seeds to flavor vegetables and sauces.
White poppy seeds are often referred to as 'Indian', 'Middle Eastern' or 'Asian' since they are featured in these cuisines. Jewish Hamentashen cookies for Purim are shaped like an ancient villain's hat, and have poppy seed filling.
In Indian cuisine, white poppy seeds are added for thickness, texture and also give added flavor to the recipe. White poppy seeds are commonly used in the preparation of Indian chappatis and korma, and in Bengali aloo posto [potatoes with poppy seeds].