Poppy seed pods are easily threshed. If you only have a few, you can crush them by hand and pour out the seeds. If you have a larger amount, you can always put them on a tarp and step on them to break the pods. But a less messy method is to use a large mortar and pestle to crush the pods while keeping the seeds from flying all over the place. We’ve seen photos/videos of women in African villages using a log in a wooden tub to thresh small grain such as millet. We do something similar.
For the tub, we have a tall, thick-walled, stainless steel milk can commonly referred to as a shotgun can because of it’s narrow, cylindrical shape. For the pounder, we used an oak newel post, normally used to support the hand-rail on a staircase, salvaged from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. To thresh the pods, put a couple of inches of them in the tub and use the oak post to smash them. Empty the container between batches. All that’s left is to sift and winnow to get down to clean, edible seed.
We’ll be experimenting with using this threshing tool for some other crops such as flax over the next year. We would also love to hear feedback from others who are using this technique so that we can all learn more about low tech seed cleaning.