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The History of Poppy

The history of poppy dates back to the New Stone Age. Discoveries of poppy cakes made in pile dwellings in Switzerland let us assume that even at that time culture and possible employ- ments of poppy were known very well. Homeland of poppy is the barren plateau of Persia. Along with the first seed wheat, poppy came to Europe centuries ago.

Already in the 13th century, this wondrous flower was cultivated across the Waldviertel as a medicinal and oil plant. Waldviertler grey poppy (papa- ver somniferum) is a so-called ‘‘see- ing‘‘ poppy variety, which came to us through monasteries. It was regarded as belonging to the group of medicinal plants and utilized to extract healing and anaestethic substances contained in the seeds.

The vastly economical significance of ‘‘Zwettler Mohn‘‘ for the Waldviertel is demonstrated by its listing on the London stock exchange until 1934. In 1980, poppy was redisco- vered by the technical college Edelhof near Zwettl. Nowadays, more than 200 hectares of poppy fields can be found in the Waldviertel.

The History of our Village

Rumor has it that the only reason why he managed to live that long was the fact that he had never entered into the bond of marriage...

Armschlag – an ancient clearing name

Records dating back to 1302/22 suggest that a man called ‘’Arbo’’ or ‘’Arbio’’ was responsible for clearing the forest in order to found the place nowadays known as Armschlag.

Did you know that Armschlag has 88 inhabitants only?

Numbers of inhabitants:
1864 – 151
1880 – 159
1890 – 173
1949 – 105
1982 – 120 2002 – 88, 25 houses – 207,7 hectare

The oldest inhabitant of Armschlag

A unique case of a very long life once occurred in Armschlag. According to entries in the church book of Sallingberg, a bachelor farmhand named Josef Ko?nig, resident of Armschlag Nr. 3, died on March 24, 1836, at the incredible age of 119!

Growing Poppy then


March 17 – a day dedicated to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, who is conside- red patroness of all garden and field fruits – and Good Friday are the most popular dates to sow poppy. People say, when poppy is sowed on one of these days, danger of white frost is averted. When poppy flowers reached an approximate height of 5cm, they were weeded. After three more weeks, a special hoe was used to free flowers from further weeds.That could turn out to be a very exhausting kind of labour...


Usually, blooming time occurs in July and lasts for about three weeks.


Harvest happened between end of April and middle of September. ‘’Seeing’’ poppy (capsules with little holes underneath the crown, like the Waldviertler grey poppy) had to be harvested earlier to avoid being blown away by the wind.The entire family took part in the process of harvesting. Back then, only capsules, but not the sticks, were picked. Once the poppy was dry, it was cut open. For this pro- cedure, apart from the family, all village youngsters were invited. Normally these meetings took place in the eve- ning.There was a lot of singing and dancing.

Storage and Utilization

Sliced capsules were poured through a fine sieve. Subsequently, poppy seeds were stored inside linen bags permeable to air. If you keep poppy seeds in bags hermetically sealed, they will eventually get uneatable. Poppy is crushed in mortars, which are made of wood and about 40-50cm long.


Still at the beginning of the 20th cen- tury, poppy was served as traditional meal on Christmas Eve, accompanied by sauerkraut. At that time, poppy was boiled and handed to little children as sleep aid. Keeping capsules with sticks underneath pillows was supposed to cause better rest. According to another folk custom, poppy seeds were thrown in front of chicken to make them lay as many eggs as seeds were rolled out before them. Poppy was also believed to be a good way to fight supernatural powers because people said that at midnight ghosts had to start counting all the seeds before pursuing their dark businesses. If the clock stroke one before the ghosts were finished counting seeds, everybody got away undisturbed by the daemons.

Growing Poppy today

Preparing the soil takes great care. During early stages, poppy is compa- ratively resistant, later on it claims a certain degree of warmth.


In Armschlag almost the entire poppy is harvested manually.

The Poppy Harvester - a regional invention

If you want the capsules to be of good quality, dry weather and fast and careful harvesting is mandatory.

To meet these challenges, the technical college Edelhof invented a very special harvester. The unique property of this harvester is that it does not destroy the capsules.

Instead, poppy seeds are emptied out through the eyes of the capsules. Across our neighbouring countries, poppy is harvested the regular way. However, risk of damaging seeds is very high. Quality and durability are likely to suffer.

Poppy seeds:
gain per hectare: 800 – 1000 kilo
Poppy capsules:
gain per hectare: ~ 700 kilo

Poppy as drug and pain killer

A single poppy seed consists of 50 percent of oil but no toxic substances. Toxic substances can only be found inside the latex of the capsule.They are utilized to produce medicinal pro- ducts and, unfortunately, narcotics. From the latex of the capsule Opium containing alkaloids like morphine, codeine and heroin may be distilled. These procedures require a special kind of opium poppy domiciled in Asia. The content of the alkaloids men- tioned above is extremely low in the Waldviertler grey poppy, due to the sea level and the rough climate in this region. Cultivation takes place at the end of March or beginning of April with the help of a special single-grain-sower. You only need 35 deca of seeds per hectare.As soon as rows are visible, picks are applied to fight weeds.

Poppy for all senses

Sense of Sight

Oriental poppy (papaver orientale) Corn poppy (papaver rhoeas) Alpine poppy (papaver alpinum): blooms yellow, white or orange

Sense of Taste

Waldviertler grey poppy has a rather mild and fine taste. It is the most traditional poppy variety in the Waldviertel and can prosper either ‘’blindly’’ or ‘’seeing’’.

White or Berlin poppy blooms purple and requires good soil. Blooming white only, it provides white, greasy seeds with a nutty taste. This kind of poppy is pretty rare in Austria.

Blue poppy blooms purple and requires good soil as well. It belongs to the species of blind poppy plants, which means capsules have to be sli- ced to expose the blue seeds resulting in a delicious oil. This kind of poppy is also pretty rare in Austria.

Sense of Sight

When capsules have little holes underneath the crown, from where seeds can drop out, you call it seeing poppy. Seeds can be shaken out of its con- tainers – the capsules – and sticks undamaged and unharmed may be continued to use. Capsules of blind poppy plants are sealed and the thick, fat seeds are well protected.They need to be cut open to harvest the seeds.

Sense of smell

Leaves shaped like crowns smell won- derful. But every poppy leaf ple- ases us just for one day! Only because one stick can carry up to ten corollas simultaneously, the beauty of a poppy field in bloom can last for eight days.

Sticks are very hairy, contain a milky juice and can reach a height of 1,80m. Poppy does not need butterflies or bees for reproduction - it fertilizes itself while capsules are still closed.

Once flower petals are exhausted, they release a green ovary. During ripeness, poppy heads may grow 5cm large. Poppy capsules are totally suited for flower arrangements and bouquets.

Sense of beauty

We apply poppy oil as foundation for our Mohn-Amour-cosmetic production line.

Sense of health

Poppy contains potassium, calcium and numerous unsaturated fatty acids

Our Mo(h)nth

17 March: day of poppy

July: poppy blossom


Contact and Route to Armschlag!