Lisa Abraham

Q.: Can I use the seeds from my poppies in recipes? If so, how do I preserve them?

— L.H., Akron

A.: The answer depends on what type of poppies you are growing. The tiny black seeds that we enjoy on bagels and in muffins are from opium poppies, typically the only variety of poppy seed that is eaten. (Remember when the character Elaine on Seinfeld had the positive drug test from eating poppy-seed muffins beforehand?)

Most likely, you are growing a different variety of poppy in your yard. However, if by chance you have opium poppies and you are sure of what you have, you could dry the seed pods (what’s left after the flower blooms and dies) and harvest the seeds, using them either whole or ground in recipes.

But you may not want to, because you could get into some trouble. Opium poppies are illegal to grow in the United States.

Barbara Carreno, public affairs officers for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, confirmed that, “Opium poppies are indeed illegal to grow in the United States (they are listed in Schedule II in the Controlled Substances Act) unless you are registered to do so with the DEA, and such a registration is usually granted to those who provide the raw ingredient to pharmaceutical companies to use to make medicine.”

So stay out of trouble, stick to growing the many other varieties of poppies that offer beautiful flowers, and buy your poppy seeds for baking at the grocery store.

Got a food question? Lisa Abraham has the answer. Call 330-996-3737; email her at with “Ask Lisa” in the subject line; or write to her at 44 E. Exchange St., P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640. Please include your name (initials will be printed on request), hometown and phone number.