To extract opium from poppy seeds, score the seed pod with sharp blade. The crude opium sap spills out from the seed pod as a milky, opaque substance, known as latex, and it thickens as it is collected.
Opium is extracted from opium poppy plants about three months after planting, when the flowers begin to bloom. Strip away the leaves of the flower to expose the egg-shaped seed pod that contains the crude opium sap. Harvest opium from seed pods that are raw with no more than a light yellow tint.
To release the opium, use a sharp blade to score the outside of the seed pod into parallel, vertical slits. Be careful not to cut deeply or cut into the inner chambers of the pod. A special tool known as a nushtar can be used to score the seed pod. This tool makes three or four simultaneous slits around the seed pod, allowing for faster harvesting.
The milky opium sap thickens as it mixes with the air, becoming a brown-colored gum. To minimize this change, avoid harvesting in rainy, windy and dewy weather conditions. Opium sap that has thickened must be scraped from the seed pod to harvest. The crude opium is commonly bundled into bricks, balls or cakes and wrapped with plastic material or leaves before distribution.