Can you die from eating unripe, uncooked green tomatoes?

Green tomatoes are poisonous and may only be harvested when they are fully ripe and have turned completely red – that’s the rule among gardeners. But it’s not just since the film ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café’ by Jon Avnet appeared in cinemas in 1991 that people have been wondering whether green tomatoes are actually edible. Pickled green tomatoes or jam prepared from green tomatoes, for example, are regarded a delicacy in certain areas. We can tell you how much poison is in green tomatoes and what impact eating them will have on you.

The protection mechanisms of unripe fruit plants

If the plant world is all about defending itself against predators, fruit-bearing plants are no exception. This implies concealment and a chemical mixture for tomatoes. Unripe fruit is green, making it difficult to distinguish between plant leaves. It is only when the fruit and the seeds it contains are ripe enough to be able ensure the tomato’s procreation that they turn red or yellow, depending on the variety. During the ripening process, a variety of things occur within the fruit. The toxic alkaloid solanine is found in green tomatoes. This ensures a deterring, bitter flavor and if, despite the taste, the unripe fruit is eaten in large amounts, the symptoms of poisoning soon begin to show.

The toxic alkaloid solanine is found in green tomatoes.

Solanine is a kind of alkaloid. This chemical class contains thousands of active compounds that are found in plants as defensive mechanisms. They include colhicine from meadow saffron and strychnine from nux vomica, both of which are lethal in little amounts. This category also includes capsaicine, which is responsible for the fiery taste in chilis and red peppers, and morphine, which is derived from opium poppies and is used to relieve pain. Several of these chemicals are used in little dosages in medicine. They often become harmful when the plant components containing the chemicals are eaten in big quantities or in another method.

How poisonous really are green tomatoes?

As only the green parts of tomato plants contain alkaloid, the risk of poisoning only comes from consuming these parts. The first signs of serious poisoning such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, stomach pains or diarrhea occur in adults if they consume around 0.0071 ounces of solanine. If more is eaten, the central nervous system will be harmed, resulting in cramping and paralysis. A fatal dosage of around 0.014 ounces is considered.

Green tomatoes have around 0.00032 to 0.0011 ounces every 3.53 ounces. In order to trigger the first indications of severe poisoning with the maximum concentration of the alkaloid, you would have to consume 22.05 ounces of raw unripe tomatoes. Yet, since solanine has an extremely bitter taste, it is exceedingly improbable that you would accidentally consume such a large quantity.

Semi-ripe tomatoes, that is tomatoes that are very nearly ripe, only contain 0.0007 ounces of solanine per 3.53 ounces of tomato. To be harmful, you would need to consume 220.46 pounds of tomatoes.

When tomatoes are completely ripe, they only contain up to 0.000025 ounces every 3.53 ounces, thus that you would have to consume around 63.93 pounds of raw tomatoes to be at risk of noticeable poisoning.

Overall, due to the bitter taste and the comparatively low concentration in semi-ripe tomatoes, it is relatively unlikely that you could unintentionally poison yourself with solanine. Green tomatoes, on the other hand, are pickled or used to produce jam in certain areas. Since solanine is heat resistant, and the bitter flavor is hidden by sugar, vinegar, and spices, these items should be consumed with caution. Pickled tomatoes, in example, are thought to retain up to 90% of their solanine content, and consuming only 3.53 to 5.29 ounces might result in poisoning symptoms.

Ripe tomatoes are healthy

As soon as tomatoes have become fully ripe, they are not only no longer poisonous, they are also extremely healthy. They are high in potassium, vitamin C, and folate and are low in calories (only about 17 kilo calories per 3.53 ounces). The lycopene component, which gives ripe tomatoes their intense red color, is especially intriguing. This is a carotinoide that binds to free radicals. As a result, it is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and infertility. A daily ingestion of 0.00025 ounces may enhance endothelial dysfunction (dysfunction of the lymphatic and blood arteries) in cardio-vascular patients, according to a research.

These green tomatoes are edible

Even if you only harvest and consume standard red or yellow fruit tomatoes when they are fully ripe, you don’t have to avoid green tomatoes altogether – even if it is only to add some color to a dish. Green fruit varieties such as the yellow-green striped ‘Green Zebra,’ ‘Limetto,’ and ‘Green Grape’ are now available in supermarkets. They are distinguished not only by their green exterior skin, but also by their green fruit flesh, and they are absolutely harmless. When it’s time to harvest green tomato types, the fruit will yield slightly under pressure.

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