Why not grow a poppy patch? Here’s how… pt.3: harvesting & processing

Our flowers are almost grown and ready for processing. We planted at the appropriate time and cultivated for the biggest juiciest pods possible, and things are looking very well.

When looking for the harvesting signs, there are things to consider. First, timing is important: too soon, and you will have wasted some time and effort by picking your flowers before their inner beauty will have reached full potential; too late, and some of the alkaloids (perhaps 10%) will have been lost to time and the weather (too much rain can wash even more of them away… remember this!).

From planting to bloom is about ten to twelve weeks (add a couple of weeks for hens & chicks); and when the petals fall off (two or three days after bloom) to peak harvest is about two weeks, maybe a little longer. After the petals fall from the flower, the pod should swell dramatically to its finished size within this time. Your poppies won’t all flower or swell at the same time, so the easiest way to tell when the waxy-looking bluish-green pods are ready is by looking at the crowns on top of each, which will be curled straight up from flat… easily witnessed.

The following section is theoretical, educational and meant for curious inquiry; it in no way endorses the use of papaver somniferum for any use other than ornamental growing. Technically, growing somniferum is illegal in Canada, but tolerated if grown in small quantities for ornamental purposes. The use of this plant for any intention other than growing has resulted in a prosecution thus far.

Though criminalising individuals for growing flowers may seem draconian, keep in mind that the State knows you better than you know yourself and understands what’s best for you. It matters not that you haven’t hurt anyone nor taken from anyone that which doesn’t belong to you; the fact that you grow flowers and drink the tea made from them is offensive to society and can… somehow… hurt society (don’t ask how, just accept this).

…ohh,ho,ho yes… the moment we’ve been waiting for; all our work, our labour of love, our hopes and dreams, nurturing and waiting… have focused and come to this moment…

TEA TIME!!!   WHOO, HOOO!!    :D

Okay, now that the pods are ready, we have a couple of choices for drying, and two choices for processing; we can pull up whole plants, tie them in bundles and hang them upside down to dry in a ventilated area if we have the space and inclination, or we can simply take a knife or shears to the garden and cut the pods off with four inches of stem attached and lay them on cardboard in a well ventilated room until they are completely dry. They say (the wise poppymen again) the advantage of hanging whole plants is that alkaloids in the stem and roots can drain into the pod for added potency. I don’t know if this has been tested or is complete bullshit. If drying on cardboard however, it’s important to space the pods and turn them occasionally; this prevents mold, which is a real concern…

…I should add that the stems, leaves and roots have a measure of alkaloids that may be exploited by loosely chopping and very gently simmering in water for a few hours to obtain the alkaloids, which may then be very gently and patiently oven-evaporated over some days to condense and freeze-store the resulting liquor; it may be worth doing this if you don’t have an ideal amount of product… maybe add some acidic lemon juice to help with extraction.

*Note that I won’t be giving instruction on scoring pods for black tar opium; this is an invitation for a door-kicking from our finest. I really don’t recommend this and hope you don’t do this; it’s too conspicuous and a good way to ensure that, eventually, no one will be growing poppies.

When our pods are dry, they must be processed. Process them all at once, because each pod can have a different potency, and it is just too precarious to grind up a few pods as needed for tea; please be aware that an overdose can kill you, and simply grinding pods as needed can do it… …not fun.

…So, remove the seeds and grind all the pods at once to a fine powder called dode or doda with a tough coffee grinder. When ground, mix the dode with a large spoon or spatula for 5-10 minutes to ensure an even mix. Save the seeds from the best pods for next year’s planting and the rest for cooking etc; they make a great curry paste. 

Put the dode in large freezer bags and store in the freezer.

Dosage is different for everyone. I strongly suggest you start at a low dose of 4 gms, then slowly each session, gm by gm, work your way up using a high quality scale until you have achieved your “lifting” dose. I think it’s very important to remind you to not start dragon-chasing; you will be disappointed at the way your tolerance builds, the greater amount of product you have to take, the fact that you simply are not getting high anymore, the enormous simian that has jumped on to your back and the surprising and horrifying way you’re getting dope-sick every morning…

…trust me; you can’t imagine.

There are two ways to consume dode: the dignified way or the economical way. If you have a lot of product, tea is the way to go. Boil water in a small pot on the stove. When the water is violently boiling, turn it off, add your dode, stir it in and take the pot off the burner. Let it sit with a lid on for fifteen minutes. During this time, eat a grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice for potentiation/enzyme inhibition. Strain tea thoroughly and drink… it doesn’t taste great, so do what you must to make it palatable if you care about this; maple syrup actually makes it quite pleasant.

…Be aware that the alkaloids are easily destroyed by boiling. Avoid this.

Powder in cool water is the other way to consume. This is the economical way (and my way, due to laziness). Less is wasted, but the resulting brew is truly vile. I eat my grapefruit each morning, steel myself for the deed, pray a little prayer to the regurgitation gods and quaff it back, powder and all… apparently it saves me money or something.

…I suppose I should add, for curiosity’s sake, that there is a third way of administration (no, not the needle; but I know you’re not stupid)… it’s very effective too; though I have to say, in my estimation, one must be a bit of a bedlamite to even consider it. If you choose to go this… ehrm, “route”, heaven help your decadent soul.

~Okay; so, we’ve learned how to process dode using the dried-pods method. Another way to process is the freshie-freeze method. If you have enough freezer space, this processing method is more efficient and much more potent, though heavier with more water mass because the pods are never dried, only frozen. Simply pick each pod at peak potency (with 4″ of stem attached), remove the seeds, slice it into small pieces and immediately store the pieces in the freezer in a large container or bag with other pods that have been picked and pieced earlier. Eventually, when all your pods have been picked, pieced and frozen, bring this mass out of the freezer and, while frozen, pound it into even smaller pieces (do this quickly, before it thaws), then store it back into the freezer in freezer bags. Note that the alkaloids in freshies are very bitter compared to dried pods (some folks can’t deal with this), and the potency is much higher (so be very careful and use a weight-scale, not a measuring spoon or cup!). Because of the heightened potency of freshies, it is important to mix, mix, mix all your pods into a single consistent-dose mass (just like dried pod powder) before storing in smaller freezer bags.

Some people like to add freshie-dode into smoothie-type shakes while others with stronger constitutions simply blend with water or juice, and down the hatch!

So there you go; from seed to deed in three parts… happy growing!

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Why not grow a poppy patch? Here’s how… pt.2: cultivation & growing

Last time, we got everything together for our poppy growing adventure. Now we plant and cultivate.

They say poppies thrive on neglect (who says? the mysterious wise poppymen?). I’ll meet them half-way on this; I think fertilizer is important, but only once when first being worked into poor soil before planting, and a little (not too much!!) every month or so, after. Don’t follow the directions on the label if they require too much application. In my experience, old manure is better, but I understand that not many have the ambition or inclination for this; consider though that bags of sterilised manure-compost can be purchased easily, and the investment of time and money will pay you back in quantity and satisfaction; a 1:1:1 ratio of soil/compost/sand is ideal and recommended for awesome results, but not necessary. My rich, well-manured opium garden puts the lie to those who claim that poppies grow better in uncared-for soil; the eyes of any jaded Afghani grower would bug out in disbelief if they set upon my beautiful, huge plants and impossible pods.

The best time for planting is springtime, immediately after the snow melts and when one can till the soil without the rototiller getting gunked up with mud. The reason for planting this early is dictated by the seeds’ desire for a cold treatment, but if you plant later (preferably before June) it’s no big deal. The earth should be very loose and well-aired. We want to avoid packed dirt as much as we can; those roots love to travel laterally. Work the fertilizer or old poop (and sand?) into the top four to six inches.

Planting is simple; there’s no need to dig holes or trenches. We just broadcast our seed, diluted with a lot (a lot) of fine sand for an even spread. If you’re sure that you won’t be dealing with wind, you might get away with not covering your seed with dirt; but definitely be sure to use a rake to even out the seeds after broadcasting. Raking is generally fine regarding planting depth if the seeds are adequately watered every day to ensure they are impacted into the ground; but if you wish to plant deeper, don’t cover them more than 3/8″. In any case, water every day in the evening and make sure that the ground is absolutely drenched each time (be careful with pooling and run-off). When the sprouts come up, water a little less each day (don’t drench), but be careful; they are very fragile at this stage.

You will notice that after a time many sprouts have fallen over. This is normal. Just let them go at this time and water only if the rain isn’t doing its job. The ground should be neither soaked nor too dry.

Now it’s time to thin our poppies out. We want a space of eight inches around each plant. This might seem like too much space, but believe me, if you want big beautiful pods and a bounty, do it. Again, the roots need space because they travel laterally. Pull out the smallest and weakest plants.

From here on in, when the plants have caught, we can relax and just weed when necessary. Besides weeding, our only job is to ensure that the soil doesn’t get bone-dry; this doesn’t mean constant watering if you don’t figure it’s raining enough though; over-watering at this stage will just leave your poppies susceptible to mold, fungus and rot and may actually lessen potency. No, no, no!! Disaster and sadness will ensue!    :(

Happy plants=happy growers…    :)

~Next: harvesting and processing

Why not grow a poppy patch? Here’s how… pt.1: getting things together

Grandma doesn’t know this, but her poppies will send you to heaven. Those pretty flowers in her yard are papaver somniferum, and don’t need to be sliced and the wonderful goo collected to be effective; in fact, it is much more efficient and… erhm… less conspicuous to simply let the pods ripen after flowering, freeze them fresh or dry and grind them into a powder for tea…

…yum yum!

If you’ve never considered growing poppies, there’s really not much to it; just a few tips to learn and easy soil prep. If, like me, you live in Canada, you’re lucky. We have the best climate in North America for our little horticultural adventure and the bonus, besides money saved on pharmaceuticals, is a truly aesthetic and meditative experience in cultivation, raising and harvesting… and it’s not just about the inner beauty of these flowers. They are really quite beautiful on the outside too. Growers, completely unaware of their inner potential, preferentially propagate poppies. When at its peak, a poppy patch is a whimsical and fantastical thing that invokes dreamy imagery with its blend of different colours and flower styles, dragon heads and pods. A patch or two can make your back yard look like a dreamer’s heaven…

…it’s therapeutic really; and dare I say… somewhat anti-depressive.

~Our first job is to find seeds. We have a couple of choices; We can go to Wal-Mart and check out the spice aisle, or buy them on-line. If you choose the spice aisle, bear in mind that you’re kind of rolling the dice in terms of quality. It doesn’t matter if the seeds are white, blue or black; they can grow quite potent flowers or quite wimpy, if pretty, eunuchs. I don’t bother with this. Your best bet is to spend the cash (it really isn’t that expensive) and get good product on-line. I suggest Canada. You won’t be disappointed. Look around the web. I won’t make recommendations, but I’ll give you a hint: buy your seeds from a farm that specializes in papaver somniferum, and nothing else (there are many different strains and types of somniferum, by the way). Seeds are perfectly legal, too… for now.

I prefer two strains- “hens & chicks” and “afghan specials”. H&cs are interesting because of an anomaly peculiar to the strain; each pod is surrounded by many very small misshapen “podlets”. If not for the difficulty slicing the “hen” pod because of the surrounding, interfering “chicks”, and that these flowers take longer than usual to grow, this strain would probably be prefered by growers who collect latex because of its unusual potency. But because we’re making tea powder, h&cs are the way to go. The flowers range from deep red to light purple with dark centres and are many-petalled.

Afghan specials are my other prefered strain. they produce a thick, barreled, morphine-rich pod that makes a beautiful cup of tea. These are truly special and valuable, so because different poppy strains cross-pollinate readily, you may wish to grow these by themselves, far away from other strains, and seed-save from the best pods unless you don’t mind buying seed every year (or buying a big lot of rather expensive seed, and planting a fraction of it each year). The flowers are bright pink with a white center, or more rarely, all white…

…as an aside, we never know when the long arm of the state with its liberty-choking hand will make these precious seeds illegal and unavailable- y’know, for our own collective good (the collective being the “almighty standard”). So one might consider seed-saving and keeping these poppy strains as pure as possible… just a thought.

There are other types of opium poppies, like giganthemum with, as its name suggests, enormous pods; persians with many flowers per plant; high yielding india whites; and many others, like peony poppies (papaver paeoniflorum) that look like peonies, and are popular with innocent flower gardeners. If you’re a jumpy type and retain visions of prison bars dancing in your head now that you own this forbidden knowledge, you may wish to consider peony poppies. They tend to have less alkaloids, but you can adapt by growing more of them. One particularly interesting strain is the tasmanian, which has an unusually high thebaine content for use in drugs like oxycodone and buprenorphine. Because tazzies are under ownership by corporation, they’re somewhat hidden in the market, but if I can find them, you can too. Thebaine is a more stimulating opiate while morphine and codeine are both downer and relaxing, so I don’t have an interest in tazzies. Others may though. At any rate, these are all somniferum.

With seeds procured, we head to our future poppy patch. I suggest a plot at least 18-24′ by 12′ with a path through the middle, lengthwise. 24 ft might seem like quite a length, but poppies yield less per plant than more common psychoactives. The patch must be in full sun from sunrise to sundown, or as sunny as possible. Don’t ignore this. The soil is best if rich, but if yours isn’t don’t despair; poor soil can be picked up simply by adding fertilizers, though in my experience old manure works best.

Cultivate as early as possible in the spring. As soon as the soil has thawed, we start tilling when the soil is dry enough to be broken. This can be fairly early in some areas. Poppy seeds are very hardy and prefer to be planted in cold soil. Some growers broadcast seeds in late fall to over-winter and let them come up in the spring as they wish. This is generally successful, but early spring planting, more so.

Poppies love loose, loamy soil; but will do nicely if the soil isn’t great, yet fertilized adequately. As well, if our soil is very loose and airy, we’ll have almost guaranteed success and seemingly more pods than we know what to do with. If soil is poor, rectify this a bit. It’s not difficult to bring up to par a little flower patch with some fertilizer (though, again, if you can instead find old manure you will be stunned by what you’ve accomplished come harvest). Poppies will let you know if soil is too crappy by a disappointing harvest. Avoid this; a soil/compost/sand ratio of 1:1:1 is a sure way to ensure excellent results. If you’re sure your plot is rich enough, or if you’ve just churned a chunk of lawn into a plot, you might be okay. If not, and you’re not into manure compost, get some chemical fertilizer with a higher middle number in the N-P-K ratio (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium). This is important because while nitrogen is good for lush green growth and potassium for roots (and flowers, aiding phosphorus), phosphorus is necessary for flower growth; so you’ll need a flower fertilizer, specifically…

…so phosphorus is key; too much nitrogen will promote green growth, at the expense of flowering… Not good, not good! Think PODS…

…if this excursion turns into a hobby, you’ll be getting into more technical aspects like soil PH and testing, composting, breeding and seed-saving and other geek stuff, most of which can be found on the net. You’ll find that your goal will be to produce bigger and juicier pods…

…i guarantee it…    :)

~Next: planting and cultivation

The story so far…

This isn’t a detailed autobiography, just an outline of one person’s life with dysthymia/depression, so things will be kept general.

~All my life I felt like an outsider. From around age twelve I began to marvel at the capacity for a seemingly natural joy that people could experience, while I watched from the other side of the invisible fence. Around ’79, on the edge of my small town, one sunny, hazy Saturday afternoon behind the school overlooking a field with my friends, I experienced a profound ennui that, looking back, should never have been felt by a fourteen year old kid. How could such a romantic poetic vision and melancholy regret have been made aware by some dumb teen? Very little worldly experience, no worldly loss, no ripping trauma, yet there it was. Without the buffers of time spent in the world, how could someone so young be expected to deal with these adult impressions?

When I was about eighteen I was tired of being tired, so I decided that I should go to a doctor to try to deal with the haze I was living in. I went in, he asked a few questions, I was prescribed vitamin c tablets and booted out the office door…

…WTF… goddamn vitamin c tablets…

…no questions, no interest, no sleuthing for answers to any possible mysteries that one might want to uncover, discover and conquer; y’know… to satisfy the natural male urge to “know”.

Nope. Just vitamin c pills. This begs the query: are doctors taught to be unimaginative dullards? Are all remnants of innate curiosity drained and beaten out of them during training? Is there a liability issue involved that forces them to take an extremely conservative approach? Does this approach prevent in many cases a favorable result? If so, this doesn’t reflect well on Western practices.

With this bad taste in my mouth I realised that I would probably have to fix my problems myself, so through the years I developed a DIY approach to things. I soldiered on and did everything I could to find an answer for my state. I tried every “healthy diet” in the books until I stumbled on the concept of eating to satisfy the human genome. This meant eating, as closely as possible, pre-agricultural food; a paleoesque diet. It worked to a certain extent. In this same “paleo” vein, I started exercising in a more natural way; this meant lots of walking and very little running, and weight training using as many muscles as possible per exercise (compound exercises) and doing it less. This worked somewhat too. With this combination of diet and exercise my anxiety levels went down quite a bit, and only the dysthymia remained. This experiment began in 2007…

…before this time, I’d tried too many antidepressants to name (this would require a separate, lengthy post… maybe later), on and off label, none of which worked, and some of which performed some interesting and nasty business.

One day, while travelling the internet, I discovered the theory that, for some, depression might be caused by an anomaly within the endogenous opioid system, and not necessarily within the monoamine neurotransmitter system, despite all the myopic, narrow research that served to build an enormous, expensive research infrastructure dedicated to that. This pissed me off a bit, and all kinds of government-corporation conspiracy theories and various tie-ins floated through my reasonably lucid, non-paranoid brain.

Thus my discovery of endorphin deficiency syndrome (EDS) theory (h/t Reardon Metal for his passionate dedication to our theory). The fact that our bodies even produce natural opiates wasn’t proved until the ’70s, so this theory can be forgiven somewhat for being so young and unexplored; but that’s no excuse for the lack of enthusiasm and effort by the pharmaceuticals. I’m a libertarian, so believe in property rights and the freedom for corporations to research whatever the hell they want in a truly capitalist system of free markets (no state/corp collusion); but knowing that the government and corporations are so in bed with each other, I can’t help thinking that there exists some suppression of research and therapy (profits and monopoly), and because of this I’m pissed that there are no real signs pointing to opiate therapy research, just a few studies here and there. With the new classes of opiates like buprenorphine, because of their actions, one develops tolerance very slowly, if at all. There is no longer an excuse for ignoring this line of research and therapy.

So, while I dream of a relatively safe opiate therapy, I have to work with what I’ve got. One frustrating afternoon, shortly after I left the doctor’s office, he in a bewildered, puzzled and angry state after going through my internet research papers, I knew that I was going to have to go it alone once again. I refused to get involved with the underground for my opiates, and online non-prescription pharms were too expensive, so I hit the internet for other options. Unbelievably, I found a potent source of opium in plain view of the world, yet thankfully obscured by our lack of knowledge: poppies… the ones grandma grows… the ones that, the seeds of which, can be bought from online vendors or any supermarket spice aisle and planted in any back yard…

…my first harvest was a smashing success…

…I harvested the pods, dried them and finely ground them into a powder called dode, or doda. I developed my own dosing regimen using an accurate scale, started keeping dosing records and experienced a relief from depression that I’d never known… and an opiate dependence.

…and so begins my journey.