Red poppies do more than cheer up a garden. The plant, often considered a flowering herb, possesses useful qualities for crafting and baking. The plant also boasts a history as a cough remedy. Obviously, seeds from the opium poppy should never be used in household recipes. It's safest to use the common poppy (Papaver rhoeas) for any cooking or crafting. Common poppies are also known as field or corn poppies, or simply red poppies.
Use dried poppy seeds to add a nut-like texture and taste to baked goods. Make the classic poppy seed muffin, or sprinkle on any bread or cake recipe. Herbalist Lesley Bremness suggests processing dried seeds in an herb or coffee bean grinder and adding them to curry powder. This addition boosts the flavor and texture of curry recipes. You can also use the petals for color rather than flavor in cooking. Infuse the petals in hot water to add vividness to drinks, soups and syrups.
Revive the almost-forgotten art of floral inks with red poppy petals. These flowers were once the first choice for red ink material, according to Bremness. To create a liquid dye, cover a cup of fresh petals with just-boiled water. Cool and strain, add a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to prevent spoilage and bottle the ink. You can also make powdered pigment by drying and grinding the petals to a fine powder and mixing with linseed oil until you reach the consistency you prefer. Use a paintbrush or quill pen with it.
The dried seed capsules add shape and texture to dried botanical crafts. Glue them onto floral or herbal wreaths. Create a vertical arrangement by setting dried ornamental grasses, flowering branches and poppy stems with the dried seed heads attached into a vase or urn. Add visual interest to potpourri by tossing several dried seed capsules in with the other botanicals. Rolling the seed pods in essential oil before adding them to potpourri will also turn them into fragrance mediums.
Make an old-fashioned poppy doll from the common red poppy. Bend the petals down over the stem to make a dress. Leave the dress as is, or give the doll a little belt by tying grass or raffia around the doll's "waist." Bending the petals down exposes the seed capsule, giving you a doll's head. Paint or ink on hair and facial features. For an even more fascinating approach, take a push pin and prick out an outline for eyes, mouth and nose. The seed's internal liquid will seep into the pin pricks, "painting" the features from the inside. If you'd like to add limbs, wait until the stem dries and push it just under the seed capsule until it sticks out on either side, forming arms. Leave enough of the stem attached to the flower so that it retains a "leg," then stick another piece of stem next to it for the second leg.
Allow the poppy flowers to go dry on the stalk and collect the seeds. Mix it in with your store-bought birdseed to stretch your dollars and add variety to the mix.
Folk remedies involving red poppies include making petal tea from a cup of boiled water poured over 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried petals. The beverage is said to soothe nerves and ease coughs. Syrup made from the petals is also used as an herbal cough remedy. Consult your physician before attempting any herbal self-treatment.