Saving Poppy Seeds : How And When To Harvest Poppy Seeds
Poppy seeds add crunch and flavor to many types of baked goods. These tiny flavorful seeds come from the beautiful poppy flower, Papever somniferum. There are plenty of other gorgeous poppy species that thrive in a variety of conditions. Saving poppy seeds will help perpetuate the colorful plants for years to come. It is a rather fun project, too, as you wait until the large pod starts to rattle. This indicates it is almost time for a poppy seed harvest, either for culinary use or just to continue the plants into the next year.
When to Harvest Poppy Seeds
Who among us hasn’t had a wonderful lemon or almond poppy seed muffin? The delicate seeds impart a rich flavor and gentle crunch that adds unique dimension to baked goods. Poppies have a bad reputation as part of the opium trade, but for gardeners, they are simply lovely papery blooms in brilliant colors. These easy-to-grow plants are also simple to propagate from seed.
Poppies generally flower in late spring to early summer. They thrive in full sun in rich, well-drained soil. Once the delicate petals begin to drop, the ovary develops into the plant’s fruit, a chubby seed pod. This pod contains hundreds of tiny black seeds, which are edible in some species.
Pods are green when young and yielding. When weather is dry near the end of the growing season, pods begin to turn brown and develop a hard carapace. This will eventually crack open, releasing the small seed. You must wait until pods are fully dry for a poppy seed harvest. Harvesting poppy seeds too early may affect their viability and ability to germinate.
You can tell when pods are ripe by shaking the stem. If the pod rattles, it is a good indicator it is time to harvest. Usually this is 80 to 90 days after planting.
How to Collect Poppy Seeds
Identifying when to harvest the seeds is only part of the equation. You also need to know how to collect poppy seeds to prevent the diminutive seeds from spreading themselves. You can watch the plants like a hawk and collect them just before they split, or when the pods are rattling and dry the pod until it cracks on a rack with a tray under it, or in nylon hose hung up in a dry, warm location.
Alternatively, you can allow the pods to dry on the plant and bag them individually with cheese cloth or old nylon stockings. Harvesting poppy seeds in this manner ensures that the seed has reached maturity. If you are saving poppy seeds from harvested dried pods, there may be some variability in germination, as some seed may not have had time to mature.
Preserving Your Poppy Seed Harvest
To save seed for the next season, dry them for a couple of weeks in an open container. Then pour the seed into a glass container with a tight fitting lid. Culinary seeds will retain flavor for up to a year if the container is stored in a cool, dry, dark location. Seed for growing should be planted the following year for best results.
Sow seeds in late fall or very early spring. Cover seeds with a very find sift of soil, since poppy seeds require light to germinate. Germination will occur in 2 to 4 weeks. Seedlings are cold hardy and should be thinned to 4 to 6 inches apart (1.6 to 2.4 cm.).
Seeds can also be sown indoors 4 to 5 weeks before the date of the last frost and transplanted, but be warned, poppies do not transplant well and some failure of the crop should be expected.
Once seedlings are established, they need occasional watering but are a fairly self-sufficient flower. Enjoy their nodding brightly colored blooms and charming seed pods until it is time for the next harvest.
How to harvest poppy seeds?
I bought three beautiful heirloom poppys from the nursery and they have stopped blooming. This is such a beautiful plant and I would love to have them around next year. I live in California. Does anyone know if I should cut back the plant? How would I harvest the seeds? What would be thebest procedure? I am a new and delighted first time gardener. PWettig
wait for the seedspods to mature and dry. you can then simply pour the seeds out the top of the pod. These are papaver not escholzia (sp?) right?
It takes a while for the seed heads to dry. Leave them on the plant until they turn brown. It makes for a little garden interest too while they are drying. After you shake out the seeds you can them and use in floral arrangements too.
And if they are Eschscholzia, a lot of them are perennials so they may come back for you without having to do anything. And they may not reallly be done blooming, mine bloom on and off most of the year. I never cut mine back. I've never collected seeds from mine so unfortunately I can't give you any tips on that.
Eschscholzia is difficult to collect because the time that the seed pod ripens to the time that it sort of explodes is very short. I'm trying to devise some kind of system to catch the seeds of flowers that are difficult, maybe a peice of paper or something underneath the plant to catch the seeds that drop of fly. Any body have any ideas?
can you attach some lightweight fabric like organza or tulle around the pod with a rubberband or some tape so that when the pod explodes, the seeds will be contained?
Thank you for your replies. That's helpful. Could someone tell me the difference between eschscholzia and papaverales? My spelling may be off. pwettig
Here's the plantfile on the papver that you might have or something like it.
Thank you wonderearth. My variety is a papver and that link helped alot.
covering a poppy seed head with a piece of panty hose and then using a twistie to tie it off, works.
That sounds about right. I have some little "frying pans" that I loved this year and want to do them again next year this sounds like it will work. Thanks. Anybody know about gilia seeds collecting?
Tip: Poppy Seeds
Back in March, I was overtaken by the rare spring-cleaning urge and went to work on my potting bench. Believe me, it hardly ever looks this pretty. In the process, I unearthed a bunch of old seeds that were way past their prime.
Side note: I hate throwing things away. I’m one of those savers who is totally, unrealistically optimistic about the future need/use/transformation of something I don’t really want anymore in the first place.
For the hell of it, I threw all the old seeds in a bed out back. Well, of course, the entire bed is now packed with plantings of the most random ridiculous colors and offerings.
There are purple tomatillos mixed with blaring burgundy amaranth, yellow rudbeckia, and lavender colored poppies mixed with summer savory. It’s totally out of control.
I guess seeds last a lot longer that I originally thought (and score one point for this optimistic saver). Another bonus from this wild garden is we have been able to collect like a million poppy seeds.
The new plan once this space is cleared and the soil amended, is to plant the entire area in poppies. Wish me luck. If my poppy plan works, that adds another point to the tally. (But who’s keeping track?)
I never captured a photo of the poppies blooming (I blame the heat!) but this illustration reflects what they looked like.
After the poppy blooms, a beautiful green pod will remain on the plant. You can use that pod in flower arrangements (like seen here) or you can use it to harvest opium—your choice.
If you choose to collect the seeds leave the pod in the ground until it turns brown and woody. Then, clip the pod off the plant and turn upside down, head first into a bowl (at this point some seeds may fall out). Grab some scissors and snip the star portion of the pod off and shake the pod into the bowl, rotating in a circular fashion, as some seeds will hide within the pod.
Voila! Seeds. Lots of them. Store in a clean, dry container in a cool, dark area until it’s time for spring planting. Don’t forget to label them!
Saving Oriental Poppy Seeds
Bought a lovely Oriental Poppy plant this spring. I removed 2 spent blossoms to encourage more. It has 2 current blooms and a couple more buds
Question: Can I save Oriental Poppy seeds and if so, should I have left the "done" blossoms on the plant to form seed heads? Has anyone saved Oriental Poppy seeds and if so, would you be willing to give me a "how to"?
Simplest thing in the world. but to allow any plant to form seeds, you have to leave the flowers on, and not deadhead (i.e. remove them). The, so long as it gets pollinated, seeds will form in what looks like a typical poppy seed head (see attached photo, in the white circle).
You have to let these seed heads dry - they will turn a tan colour. As they dry, small openings will develop around the top of the green part, just beneath the central disc with the black radiating lines on it.
The seeds can easily be shaken out of the dried seed head into a bowl, and then stored in a container in a cool, dry place. If they are still slightly green, or dampish, let them dry in the open first before storing. Or you could just scatter them immediately where you want more to come up.
Right after I took the spent flowers off, I thought of that! Oh, well, I have more flowers coming and will leave them on to form seeds.
Alta, do you find they are difficult to sow/germinate?
Your poppies are gorgeous!
I started these from seed about 15 or more years ago, and honestly don't remember much about it. But reading about it, they are easy, warm germinators (that is, they don't need to be stratified) - in other words, they're like growing most annuals - no fuss. They need light to germinate, so therefore just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil, if you are planning to grow them in pots. or just make it easy on yourself and sprinkle the seeds where you want them to grow.
In case you're not aware of it, oriental poppies go dormant after blooming (the foliage turns yellow and dries up), and then they may or may not send up more foliage in late summer/fall. For this reason, if you have any large, mature plants, it's a good idea to place some plant rings around them, to hold the foliage more upright, so as to give the plants around them more space to develop. That way, when the poppy goes dormant, it will leave a smaller gap, that can be filled by the surrounding plants more easily.
You may want to place a paper bag around the capsule when it starts to dry, as the seeds are shaken out by the wind.
Oriental poppies indeed work well from seed, and as with most of those early summer perennials, don't wait to seed them - nature does some "just in time" seed production here, allowing for a first bloom next early summer.
I read recently that the oriental poppies go dormant in the hot weather/summer and often people think they "died" so water and water, and tend to kill them off. I will put something on the seed pods to save them. I'd like to try and play with the seeds and see if I can get them to germinate next year.
I have always thought how gorgeous these poppies were, but thought they were hard to care for.
No, as long as they're not in standing water, they're pretty well unkillable. They're hardy through zone 2 at least and the roots go half-way to China, so they're actually very hard to get rid of, from place where you don't want them.
valal: I had lots of trouble getting Oriental Seeds from germination to flower. I finally made the transition when I planted them in a raised bed that pretty much had ideal conditions with good drainage, protection from wind and erosion etc. Of course, you can't have mulch around the plants or the seeds won't make contact with the soil. They must have good drainage.
I think the flowers are beautiful--really large blooms.
I'm growing a different poppy this year: Papaver bracteatum
Those are GORGEOUS. I would love to see your blooms! I was looking at swallowtail's oriental poppy seeds as they have a wonderful selection, and some terrific colors! (I love their site/seeds)!
An alternative to a paper bag seed-catcher is an "organza bag", made of material like a very fine mesh. Hopefully that mesh is fine enough to hold tiny poppy seeds!
Craft stores and Wal-Mart will have them in a "bridal supply" isle. They have handy pull-ties that let you tie them around a bloom. The fine mesh lets air, water and sun in and out freely.
The best prices, and wide variety of sizes and colors are here.
You can even buy small numbers of them cheap:
I don't recall now why I thought the first place was better than this place:
You can also use organza bags to keep pollinating insects away from a few blooms so you can pollinate by hand and get completely pure seeds to save and trade.