Our taste for poppy seeds stretches back to pre-ancient times. According to Mark Merlin, author of On The Trail of the Ancient Opium Poppy (Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 1984), the cultivation of poppy seeds dates to the Neolithic period in Europe. White poppy seeds, from Papaver somniferum album, are most commonly used in Asia; they're smaller and milder tasting than the blue-black variety. I was particularly fascinated to read about the use of white poppy seeds in Bengali cuisine while reading Eating India (Bloomsbury USA, 2007), by food historian Chitrita Banerji. Their abundance in the region was linked to the rampant opium trade of the 18th and 19th centuries, when British colonists insisted that Bengali farmers turn their arable land over to farming poppies. Though the flowers were cultivated for narcotics, a by-product of the crop was poppy seeds, which Bengalis incorporated into their cuisine. In one classic Bengali dish, aloo posto, potatoes are cooked with a fine paste made from poppy and mustard seeds pureed with garlic, chile, water, and salt. Even combined with those strong flavors, the singular, nutty, vaguely floral taste of the poppy seeds comes through.