We are in receipt of inquiries in regard to the cultivation of poppies, and the manufacture of opium ; it having been suggested by certain agricultural journals that there are various parts of the United States where this industry might be profitably introduced. The failure of several attempts which have hitherto been made to produce this costly drug in America, is justly consideredrfis an insufficient reason for supposing it impossible to succeed in other parts of the country possessing more favorable circumstances of soil and climate. The opium, which finds its way to European and American markets, is raised principally in India, China, and Persia. The climate of these parts of Asia seems peculiarly adapted to the growth of the species of poppy (papaver somniferum), from which opium is obtained ; accumulating in the juice of the plant the peculiar substances which form the complex compound called opium. The latter is the dried juice of the plant obtained by tapping the capsules, which allows the juice to flow out and stand in drops upon the surface from which it is scraped with knives when it is dried sufficiently. Another method, that of dissolving out the remainder of the j uice after tapping, with water, and evaporating the solution has been also practiced to supplement the former. Each capsule will yield opium only once by tapping. The tapping should be performed a few days after the flower has fallen, and the incisions should be made horizontally, and not so deep as to cut into the inner portion of the capsule, as should this happen, the juice would flow into the cavity and be lost. Various experiments have been made in England, France, and Scotland, to produce opium, with encouraging results. So far as our knowledge extends the attempts made here have not given much encouragement of final success. The poppy will grow luxuriantly in almost any fine rich soil. It may be sown in hills sufficiently wide apart to admit of cultivation, and harvesting the opium as the Capsules mature. Experiment alone will suffice to determine what soils and what section if any in this country will answer well for its cultivation, and what quantity of seed will do for a given quantity of land. We see no reason to doubt, that in the very diversified con ditions of climate and soil to be found in the United States, there may be some sections well adapted to the culture of opium, and thus another drain upon the resources of the country be cut off by home production.
This article was originally published with the title "Cultivation of the Poppy and Manufacture of Opium" in Scientific American 20, 17, 264 (April 1869)