Friday, 7 November 2008

Focus on POPPIES

I'll be away on Remembrance Sunday and on the 11th November - going to Poland for the week. So I thought I would Focus on the humble Poppy, a beautiful flower, favourite of many and one with powerful symbolism. I will, hopefully, be growing some next year on the plot, for my own enjoyment and for the seeds - for me to eat, or maybe the birds I haven't decided how greedy I'll be yet.

So today's information comes from the ever reliable and informative Wikipedia at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poppy and the extremely informative pages of

The Royal British Legion at :
http://www.poppy.org.uk/index.php/remembrance.html

The Poppy is one of the showy-est flowers there is, especially in it's most well known colour of bright red. It can however be found in an abunadance of colour varieties - just showing how popular it is. These include white, yellow and even blue (Himalyan). They are grown for their glorious flowers and seed heads but are also beloved by Bees who use their pollen, Bakeries for the gorgeous seeds and Drug lords for the Opium (a Narcotic formed from sap released by immature seed pods of Opium Poppies [Papaver somniferum] DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)

Poppies have long been mentioned in Greco-Roman myths in relation to death and sleep or indeed, both - eternal sleep. But they also connected them to the promise of resurrection. In Commonwealth countries the Poppy has been adopted as a symbol of remembrance - for those who died in the 1st World War and all other conflicts since then. Paper or plastic Poppies are worn on the lapel, (or attached to little wooden crosses or made up into wreathes) up to and including the 11th November when the end of the 1st World War is marked with a minutes silence. Having ended at 11 o'clock on the 11th Day of the 11th Month 1918.

On the British Legion website http://www.poppyfactory.org/history.html there is a short but very interesting background to the 1922 factory of disabled ex-service army men and women who assembled rembrance poppies and in fact still do to this day. However we can not take credit for the idea as it came primarily as a result to Colonel John McRae’s poem “In Flanders Field”, leading an American lady to start the trend in 1920. (The poem can be found on the Wikipedia page).

It's the Corn or Field Poppy that is used at this time, as it grows best in poor, untended soil. After the horrific battles of the 1st World War, poppies were found to be growing all over the trenches and battlefield scars of the fields, a sign of life after such carnage and also of blood, which would have soaked the very soil they grew in.

Poppy seeds can be eaten, think of the lovely poppy seed cake and bread crusts topped with seeds. However, beware, unconfirmed experiments suggest that eating a lot of the seeds can lead to false positive drug tests for opiates!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Poppy. Grow; cut and put in a vase if you like; eat the seeds maybe; enjoy. And remember.

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