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One opportunity missed

Talking (as we were) about capitalism expanding to fill every vacuum — and continuing our horticultural theme — it’s astonishing to me that there isn’t a significant US market in homegrown coca leaves and opium poppies.

We certainly learned to grow decent marijuana eventually. America has places that represent every sort of climate on earth, and there’s sure as shit enough money in cocaine and heroin.

I don’t know much about coca, but opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) grow readily enough in lots of places. Near as I can tell from a quick poke around the web, they are legal to grow in the US. They certainly are in the UK. Just not to harvest.

Which is also pretty easy. Shortly after the petals fall off the flowers, you make three very shallow cuts along the seed pod with a razor. A white latex sap, like unto Elmer’s glue, weeps out of the cuts. Leave it overnight, it goes brown and sticky, scrape it into a spoon — and that, ladies and gentlemen, is opium.

Going from raw opium to morphine or heroin requires chemistry and other things that baffle and confuse weasels, but I don’t think it’s rocket science.

I’ve never actually harvested opium, and I’m not just saying that because the British government is intrusive and impertinent. I really haven’t.

But I once harbored ambition to be a sort of Johnny Appleseed — or Stoaty Opiumseed, if you will — sowing somniferum up and down the land. For no good reason beyond sticking a finger in the eye of The Man and the evil bastards who live off the international drug trade.

Problem is, I suck at growing stuff.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 28, 2010, 11:15 pm

Check out the obsolete skills website.

Yeah, I’ve got a few of those.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 28, 2010, 11:33 pm

I note that among the skills is “Concocting a Physick to balance the Vital Humors?”

Kind of takes us back to where we started with this post, doesn’t it?

Comment from armybrat
Time: April 28, 2010, 11:39 pm

Damn bunnies ate every poppy I ever planted when I lived in the midwest. I would think the midwest…hot as hell summers, cold as the opposite of hell winters would be a perfect growing ground for opium poppies, considering that they grow in Afgahnistan….a similar climate. Damn bunnies.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: April 28, 2010, 11:44 pm

autoexec.bat editing…that took me back a few years.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 29, 2010, 12:06 am

I’m with you there, Gromulin! 🙂

Comment from Spad13
Time: April 29, 2010, 12:12 am

Like an idiot the only thing I grow is tomaters and peppers. They don’t get me high but they tastes good with Italian hot sausage on a roll and a glass of home pressed dago red.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: April 29, 2010, 12:26 am

Yes Brat, but I’ll bet you that those were the HAPPIEST bunnies in the American West…… 😉

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: April 29, 2010, 12:55 am

Sorry Stoatie, just did a quick Howdoyoudo on the subject, and the Federalies consider possession of even a single Opium Poppy to be possession of a schedule 2 narcotic, which is a felony.

So, as they say,
‘Just Say No!’ (damnit)

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:04 am

My greatgrandma had the damn things growing all over in her beds. And they are still found in lots of formal gardens all around the country.

$3.49/250 seeds at Amazon.

Comment from Blue Octopi
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:06 am

I always learn the most interesting things from this blog.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:15 am

Um, EW1(SG), I think those might be a different kind of poppy. My parents had poppies in their garden, and I swiped a couple of the seed pods and started them in my garden (and once you start them, they are damned hard to kill off)–but the seed pods do NOT look like those in Weasel’s illustration. Although the tops are a bit similar, the pods themselves have flattish ribbed sides–they aren’t the huge balls in that picture.

One feature of the kind of poppies I have that is really fun (but also in its way dangerous) is that the seed pods, when dry, are like little pepper shakers–what is shaken out being the seeds. This is a lot of fun to discover as a pre-teen, because you go around shaking them all over the place and watching the seeds fall out. Unfortunately, at least in our climate, that’s pretty much all you have to do with the seeds to get them to grow. . .

But (and perhaps this is ALSO our climate) I don’t think you’ll ever get that latex sap out of them.

Comment from Pavel
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:16 am

I was so happy to read the obsoleteskills website. I did probably 80 percent of the things on there as a boy or young man.

For the rest of the evening, I will say old-guy things, and will sound like Festus. We didn’t have those new-fangled computers with porn sites in my day. We had books. Books! Books with pictures of bathing beauties!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:34 am

Other sorts of poppy have a bit of opioids in them. The British common field poppy was made into tea for colicky babies in the 17th C.

Comment from mommer
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:37 am

I bought some poppy seeds on ebay a few years back. I’m talking 2005 or so not late Jurassic. A packet of the ehem, will hold glue, ehem kind. And some blue ones that are really beautiful. So unique and purty that I had never seen nor heard of them till I went to a place here in Washington that grew them or sold them. Being a cheapster of the first water I didn’t want to pay what the were asking so I bought them on ebay.

None of the seeds I got sprouted. Not the poppies, not the passion flowers, and not even the nipple fruit tree. What the hell.

Got loads of cool stuff off ebay and sold stuff too. But no mas ebay seeds for mommer.

Comment from mommer
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:44 am

Oops, wait. My daughter (who knows everything) reminds me that was orchids in a flask I bought also on that particular ebay adventure. They didn’t grow either, but it was more my ineptness.

Nipple fruit tree you have to grow from cuttings.

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: April 29, 2010, 4:55 am

Can’t hark my cry:

I think those might be a different kind of poppy.

While there are different kinds of poppies, the classic formal garden inhabitant is Papaver Somniferum, opium poppies, like my greatgrandmother had, and whose seed pods fascinated me as a child because of the rubberlike latex that would ooze from cuts in the pods. And as Weasel notes, some of the other poppies are also opioid producers, although not as productive as somniferum.

Bit of a quirk in the law, as Papaver Somniferum is legal to grow for horticultural purposes, but obviously not for drug production.

Comment from Lipstick
Time: April 29, 2010, 5:12 am

When I was in Tasmania last year our guide drove us past huge fields of opium poppies. They are grown there under license of the FDA to supply the pharmaceutical companies the basis of their opiate drugs. I just thought it was an interesting thing to learn.

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: April 29, 2010, 5:12 am

Weasel says:

Check out the obsolete skills website.

Yeah, I’ve got a few of those.

Grosse Gott!! I don’t have a few of those, I have most of those…and I still use quite a few of them daily.

Nothing like finding out how obsolete you are from a high tech method.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: April 29, 2010, 11:18 am

Oh! Okay–interesting to know, EW1(SG)

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: April 29, 2010, 12:44 pm

Interesting maybe, but I’m not sure its of any use. I don’t know how many poppies it takes to yield anything useful, but I suspect the answer is Lots!

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: April 29, 2010, 12:47 pm


When I was in Tasmania

Huh, I wondered where they were grown~it used to be that legal production came from Afghanistan, as well as the huge excess that went into the drug trade.

I wonder if any of that produce is sold in legal channels now?

Comment from Bill (still the .00358% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: April 29, 2010, 1:11 pm

Dueling with swords, guns, et cetera, to settle differences

*Not* obsolete in several places I’ve been — although the duel usually consists of one of the aggrieved parties popping the other from behind a rock ledge with a rifle.

Which just draws the deceased’s progeny into it. I know a party to one feud that started about 600 years ago — and the families still hate each other. The damned fight started *before* the idea that one party killing the other would settle the matter…

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 29, 2010, 2:44 pm

I don’t know how many poppies it takes to yield anything useful, but I suspect the answer is Lots!

Depends what you mean by useful. When I was banging around the web yesterday checking this stuff out, there was one site clearly advocating recreational use. Might’ve been poppies.org. For smoking, he recommended a beginning dose the size of a match-head. That’s the raw opium latex without any processing.

Pretty potent, then.

I could never do that, though. I’m not afraid of the opium, I’m afraid of the smoke. I’m afraid if I ever smoked anything again, I would awake that beast. It sleeps lightly enough as it is.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: April 29, 2010, 3:47 pm

^Opium brownies then Weasel?

Comment from jwpaine
Time: April 29, 2010, 4:33 pm

I didn’t see “Changing the DIP switch settings on a 300-baud modem for 1 stop bit, no parity” on that list, but otherwise, pretty entertaining.

Comment from Dawn
Time: April 29, 2010, 4:47 pm

Why do I suddenly feel like I need to call my sponsor?

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: April 29, 2010, 5:11 pm

That obsolete skills website cost me most of the morning! That was fun!

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: April 30, 2010, 2:32 am

Weasel weasels:

I’m not afraid of the opium, I’m afraid of the smoke. I’m afraid if I ever smoked anything again, I would awake that beast. It sleeps lightly enough as it is.

Smoking anything is bad enough enough for a nicotine addict, but something like opium is akin to pumping gasoline through a 6 inch hose onto a lighted bbq for it. You think you want a cigarette after a few pints? Whoo, buddy!

Not a good idea. OTOH, I only have about 12 years 10 months to make up to catch up with you in the nonsmoking department!

Comment from Gordon R. Durand
Time: April 30, 2010, 4:20 am

You don’t actually burn the opium; you just heat it until it begins to vaporize and then draw off the vapor. It’s actually quite soothing.

I harvested my Mom’s ornamental poppies when I was a teenager. It’s pretty low-grade, but with enough patience and a little imagination, you can get a buzz.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 30, 2010, 11:39 am

Sorry about that, Gordon — the spam filter thought you smelled funny, for some reason. You can also make a soothing tea from dried poppy heads.

Comment from jic
Time: May 10, 2010, 1:45 am

“Problem is, I suck at growing stuff.”

Then Opium Poppies are perfect for you. We used to have them all over our garden, and we hadn’t even planted any!

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