billions of poppy seeds

I discovered when I packed up to move, back in December, that I had a vast hoarded supply of Hungarian Bread Poppy seed. Quart and half-gallon jars labeled 2009, 2010, etc. through 2013. I’d stopped offering the seed for sale when growers had trouble with germination. My subsequent experiments revealed a definite requirement for stratification – the seeds need to be planted out in the fall and go through a winter of rain and cold before they will germinate. I had the most success simply scattering seed in raked beds. Plants begin to flower here by May, and seed harvest is August into September.

I had accumulated so much seed because I’d kept harvesting but never found time for baking. Even though I had the perfect poppy seed cake recipe, developed by Laytonville master baker Tera Wood. Now I have time. Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Poppy Seed Cakepoppyseedcake
Heat to boil, then let rest: ¾ cup poppy seeds / 1 cup milk
Cream together: 2 sticks butter / 1 1/3 cups brown sugar
Add: 3 eggs
Mix together, add to above: 2 cups flour / 1 T baking powder / ½ t salt
Add: ½ t vanilla / 1 t lemon extract / zest of 2 lemons / poppy seed mixture
Pour into oiled pans: 2 loaf pans or 1 9” square. Bake 350/40-50 mins.

Heat ½ cup lemon juice and ½ cup honey, spoon over warm loaves.

I’ve made this enough times now to fool with it extensively. Gluten-free flour makes a denser but still delicious cake. To veganize the recipe, I’ve made these adjustments:
— 1 ¾ cups almond milk replaces 1 cup milk
— 1 cup coconut oil replaces butter
— delete eggs
— increase flour to 2 2/3 cups
— add ¼ cup lemon juice

These poppies reseed easily without ever reaching invasive status. Once they’re established, your job will be to thin the young plants in spring, enjoy the flowers, and harvest seeds later. You’ll be surprised at the substantial yield of even a small patch – enough for a year of cakes – or two or three years, depending how busy you are.