Czechs: the poppy-heads / Cesi: Makove palice - CzechmatediaryCzechs: the poppy-heads / Cesi: Makove palice - Czechmatediary
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Czechs: the poppy-heads / Cesi: Makove palice

I think everyone would agree that Americans are not  crazy about poppy seeds. The Czechs on the other hand put them into everything, including cakes (kolache), noodles and dumplings. Although each poppy seed is less than one millimeter in length it sure has a mighty power. Besides its culinary uses (condiment, decorative garnish, thickener, poppy-seed oil) poppy seeds have long been used as a folk remedy to promote sleep (opium) and fertility.

We are crazy about the poppies so much that we make movies about them too. Makova Panenka (= Poppy seed girl) is a Czech children cartoon which depicts a beautiful, big-eyed brunette whose skirt is made out of the petals of the poppy flower (see her image below). Heck, we even have a saying “You are such a poppy-head!” (= Ty jses takova makova palice!) meaning “You are so forgetful!”.

Why are we so obsessed about the poppies? How about if I tell you that the Czech Republic is  the number one producer of poppy seeds in the world?! We make  33,101 tons of poppies per year (2007) which is 54.32% of the world production!!!!! That explains everything….although it does not really explain WHY are we so fond of cultivating this plant (ideas anyone?).

Here is a  fun fact: my father told me that when his great-grandma worked in the fields and her children were just babies she (and all of the other working women) would put them in a sack, hang them on a tree branch. To top it off, the women would give them a highly diluted tea from the poppies so that the babies would sleep and let their mommies  work 🙂

CZ: Myslim, ze by vsichni souhlasili s tim, ze Americane mak moc radi nemaji. V obycejne americke kuchyni ho vubec nenajdete, maximalne se objevi tu a tam na nejakem tom krekru nebo tycince. Cesi si ho naopak davaji skoro do vseho: do buchet, do knedliku, do kolacu, na nudle…..Jsme z maku tak vedle, ze o nem dokonce i vytvarime filmy! Kdo by neznal napriklad Makovou panenku, ze? Jenom makove palice by preci zavrtely hlavou…;)

Muj tata mi nedavno take prozradil, ze za casu jeho prababicky se z maku delal vyvar, ktery se daval miminkum, aby hezky spinkala, kdyz jejich maminky obdelavaly pole. Ovsem nespinkala v kocarcich, ale v jakemsi vaku, ktery se zavesil na strom, jako vanocni ozdoba 🙂

Odkud se vubec tato makova posedlost bere? Ceska republika je totiz nejvetsim pestitelem maku na celem svete. Rocne vyrabi pres 33 tisic tun maku (2007), coz je 54 %  celosvetove produkce. To je, co? To ale samozrejme nevysvetluje, PROC jsme tim nejvetsim pestitelem maku (nevite to nekdo?).


If you liked this post buy me a coffee! (Suggested:$3 a latte $8 for a pound) Thanks!

19 comments… add one
  • Jana M Vaculik February 25, 2011, 1:17 pm

    My grandmother would use kmin (caraway seeds) to help with colic. I have heard people not passing a drug test because they had eaten a poppyseed kolache for breakfast. But I do not think there is enough poppy seed to effect that sort of test. My favorite food to eat is noodles or plain dumplings with poppyseed and sugar with melted butter.

  • Tanja February 25, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Jano, my Czech friend was just telling me the exactly the same thing! Her friend was positive for drug testing because they had a ‘makovec’ for breakfast…how strange!

    By the way, I just recently introduced my daughter Hahna to the beauty of nudle s makem and she loved it. It is such a simple recipe yet so delicious!

  • wer February 26, 2011, 12:51 pm

    It’s not about Czechs, but about the territory. Bohemia was noticeable for poopyseed production long before the arrival of first Slavs.

  • Tanja February 26, 2011, 2:04 pm

    OK, that makes sense! So it’s not that the poppies are revolving around the Czechs but the Czechs are revolving around the poppies!

  • Jaryba February 26, 2011, 5:20 pm
  • Tom Blaha February 28, 2011, 5:27 am

    Yes. Poppy seeds AND caraway seeds. My grandma Blaha put caraway seeds on everything!
    I was 25 years old before I learned that everybody didn’t have caraway seeds on their Thanksgiving turkey!!!

  • Verunka February 28, 2011, 1:08 pm

    I used to always do my elementary school projects on the Czech Republic and would always ask for my mother to make Kolace and extra ones with poppy seed, I always did this because the American kids never liked them, they always ate the fruit ones and I got to take more poppy seed home. I LOVE, LOVE poppy seed!

  • Tanja February 28, 2011, 1:29 pm

    Tom, that’s hilarious – caraway seeds on turkey!!! :)) I don’t do that but I put them into my boiling water every time I cook potatoes. I don’t know why, I just do it because my mom has been doing it 🙂

    Verunko – you were a pretty smart kid! Did your mom ever get suspicious that were coming back with so many poppy seed kolaces back? Or did you manage to finish them all before you got home that day?

  • Verunka February 28, 2011, 2:07 pm

    No, because I ate a lot of them on the bus ride home. 🙂

  • Tanja March 2, 2011, 9:16 pm

    Jarybo, uz jsem si konecne precetla ten clanek. To jsem nevedela, ze italove jsou taky anti-makovy!
    Tak to v ty nasi makovy koalici zbyaji fakt asi jenom ty Nemci a Polaci, co?

  • Anton Petrash March 21, 2011, 1:22 pm

    My Irish mother learned to make kolaches for my Czech father and I fell in love with poppy seeds more than anything!

  • Katka March 31, 2011, 10:59 am

    I’m American and had never had anything with poppyseeds until I married my Czech husband. I love all the recipies I’ve had with poppyseeds, especially the kolačky a knedícky. The problem is that I find poppy seeds are extremely costly where I’m from. I’m talking $6 for a 1.25 oz bottle – which doesn’t go very far for kolačky. Is everyone finding that issue here in the States?

  • Katka March 31, 2011, 11:00 am

    sorry, meant knedlíky 🙂

  • Anton March 31, 2011, 11:15 am

    A company called Lovenbake makes a poppy seed filling that is very good. They are available at grocers and has them too!

  • Tanja March 31, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Katko: Really? I buy a plastic bottle of poppy seeds for about $3 if I remember well! I get it at Albertsons. Where are you located?

    Another problem with poppy seeds is that they get into your teeth and stay there forever…until someone else points them out to you 😉 Gotta start wearing that ladies mirror in my purse!

  • Tanja March 31, 2011, 3:35 pm

    That’s good to know Anton, thanks! But I just think that the filling is SO easy to make that it would be a waste of money…that just my personal opinion.

  • Alena April 11, 2011, 7:29 pm

    Ahoj Tanjo, that’s my Mom’s name. My parents and I escaped from the Czech Republic in 1985 and I finally bought a poppy seed grinder this January. I haven’t had mak since I went back in 1996. That’s 15 years, people!! Now I’m Poppy Seed Crazy. I am baking everything with poppy seeds. I stumbled on your blog through the SlovakCooking blog and I am so glad I did. A lot of the things I’m reading, especially the post on not taking compliments well and the negative behaviors that Czechs exhibit completely shocked me. Now I know why my parents are the way they are and why I’m always complaining, hahaha. At least I don’t complain about my poppy seeds!!

    PS. A lot of the little cartoon pictures that you post are triggering all these childhood memories that I filed away in my brain long ago. I love it! Thank you!

  • Tanja April 11, 2011, 9:13 pm

    Ahoj Alenko,

    what a coincidence that your mom’s name is Tana too. You don’t see that many of them. I have been even accused of having communist (Russian-loving) parents because of that. Little do they know that my aunt’s name is Olga:))
    I am so glad you found your way back to the poppy-seed obsession. Just don’t eat too much of it or you will test drug-positive 🙂

    I know, complaining and negativity definitely runs in our blood. Now I created this blog so we can complain here about our complaining parents :))

  • Nicole July 14, 2011, 9:35 pm

    I’m in Wisconsin. At one grocery store here we can buy bulk poppyseeds with other bulk products. But at the store I shop at most often, I just ask for them at the bakery counter. I get a 1/4 pound container and it doesn’t cost much.
    Hope this helps.

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