Poppy pods

Poppy field 3.jpg

Bob and I came across a large poppy field while hiking through the La Rioja region of Spain. We saw no cameras.

The poppy belongs to the Papaveraceae family, a group of plants known for the production of a milky latex.

Poppies are most often found in dryer corners of Europe and Asia. Australia is a notable exception. Many genera are prized for their flowers.

However, one species, Papaver somniferum, has been engineered specifically for its production of latex. I don't know if the plants we found in this field belong to this species, but I do know that alkaloids obtained from its latex are opiate; they have deep physiological effects on humans and other animals. Seed pods are scratched, the latex drips out and dries. Collected and processed, we call this residue by names like morphine or codeine or heroin.

Use of opiates in the Mediterranean basin goes back a long way. It is well-documented in the Hellenistic period, centuries before the time of Christ (see the interesting article here).

Spain is the second largest producer of opiates in the world. The government keeps a close eye on the fields. See the article here for more on this Spanish industry.

Buen caminó!


Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.