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Papaver rhoeas, Corn Poppy, Red Field Poppy


The red field poppy has single red flowers, growing to a height of 60cm.

The flowers of corn poppy have a long history of medicinal usage, especially for ailments in the elderly and children

Chiefly employed as a mild pain reliever and as a treatment for irritable coughs, it also helps to reduce nervous over-activity. Unlike the related opium poppy (P. somniferum) it is non-addictive. However, the plant does contain alkaloids, which are still under investigation, and so should only be used under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.

A red dye is obtained from the flowers, though it is very fugitive. A syrup made from the petals has been used as a colouring matter for old inks. The red petals are used to add colour to pot-pourri.

Prefers a well-drained sandy loam in a sunny position. Does not do well on wet clay soils but succeeds in most other soils.

Plants usually self-sow freely when growing in suitable conditions so long as the soil surface is disturbed.

Sow spring or autumn in situ.

Edible uses

Some caution is advised, this plant is toxic to mammals, though the toxicity is low. The seed is not toxic.

Seed - raw or cooked. Much used as a flavouring in cakes, bread, fruit salads etc, it imparts a very nice nutty flavour. The seeds are rather small, but they are contained in fairly large seed pods and so are easy to harvest. The seeds are perfectly safe to eat, containing none of the alkaloids associated with other parts of the plant.

Leaves - raw or cooked. Used like spinach or as a flavouring in soups and salads. The leaves should not be used after the flower buds have formed.

An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Said to be an excellent substitute for olive oil, it can be used in salad dressings or for cooking. A syrup can be prepared from the scarlet flower petals, it is used in soups, gruels etc.

A red dye from the petals is used as a food flavouring, especially in wine.


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