From the Fields of Switzerland: Poppy Seed Noodles

Poppy flower, bulb, and seeds – Papaver somniferum; Mohnnudeln

The young peasant girls of Switzerland believed the poppy flower held certain secrets–they believed the poppy could reveal the true nature of their lover’s heart. During the warm months of spring, the girls would scour the fields for the poppy’s tell-tale red blossoms. Once they located the distinctive flower, they would pluck a single petal and place it in the hollow of their left hand, which they would then fiercely smack with their right. If the petal made a sudden bursting sound, as of a sigh quickly escaping, their beloved was loyal and would remain so until his dying day. But if no sound issued from the crushed petal, coldness reigned in his heart and he would soon abandon the bearer of the mute petal.

The poppy was more than just a means for deciphering the ways of a man’s heart, however. It also frequently appeared in the kitchens of Central European peasants. German peasants boiled the poppy seeds and ate them like sago. When a child proved querulous, they soaked cloth in a sweetened mixture of poppy seeds and used it as a pacifier. But more commonly they used poppy seeds in a number of tasty and hearty desserts. Here’s a recipe for Mohnnudeln — a delightful Central European dish that can be eaten as a dessert or a light supper.

Poppy Seed Noodles (Mohnnudeln)

1 pound potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 egg yolk
1 ounce butter
4 ounces fine white flour
1 ounce farina (cream of wheat)
1 pinch salt


1 ounce butter, lightly browned
3.5 ounces poppy seeds
powdered sugar

Mash the potatoes and mix with the egg yolk, butter, flour, farina, and salt. Roll this dough out on a floured cutting board and cut into small pieces. Form these pieces into long noodles, with centers thicker than the ends. They should be 2-3 inches long. Cook these noodles in boiling water for about 6 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water, daub off any excess water and place in a serving dish. Pour the lightly browned butter and poppy seeds over the noodles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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