Why are tomato plants poisonous?

The tomato was dreaded when Europeans first discovered it on their initial travels to the New World. A bright red—suspiciously bright red—fruit in the same family as the Deadly Nightshade, a legendary poisonous plant? Thank you very much!

Of fact, the tomato is not dangerous, but the Europeans were correct to be cautious. There are plenty of fruits, vegetables, tubers, and other plants that we heartily consume that are, secretly, dangerous to our health if prepared or eaten improperly. Here are a few you may not be aware of.


1. Tomato

I know, I just claimed it wasn’t harmful. The fruit isn’t, but the leaves, roots, and stem (and, in limited doses, even some unripe fruit) are rich in tomatine, an alkaloid that’s mildly toxic to humans. It won’t kill you unless you eat pounds and pounds of it, but it will induce gastrointestinal irritation.

2. Apples, Cherries, and Apricots

All of these fruits’ seeds are not edible; they are hard, bitter, and unpleasant. The bitter taste is a defensive ingredient added by the plant to dissuade animals like ourselves from damaging it. And it is derived from amygdalin, which converts to cyanide when it comes into touch with acids in the human digestive system. Cherries, apricots, peaches, and nectarines have the substance in much higher concentrations than apples, but all of the seeds and pits in these fruits are fantastically tough. Even if you ingested some? It’s not a huge deal. Your body will just expel them. Please, however, do not grind and then ingest cherry pits.

3. Kidney Beans

Many legumes can cause mild gastrointestinal distress when undercooked, but red kidney beans (the kind almost always used in chili) are special. Kidney beans include phytohaemagglutinin, a chemical molecule that I’ll always have to duplicate and paste because, are you kidding me? Even a few undercooked kidney beans might result in severe diarrhea and vomiting. According to the FDA, it’s not fatal and rarely results in hospitalization, but it’s fairly common for people to end up sick after chomping down on some merely soaked beans.

4. Rhubarb

Rhubarb, a springtime stalk most commonly used in the creation of America’s best pie, the strawberry-rhubarb, is a very strange plant indeed. It’s a sour vegetable that looks like scarlet celery and is most often utilized in sweet applications. And its leaves are very toxic. Rhubarb leaves are rich in oxalic acid, which causes renal failure in humans fast. The typical quantity of pure oxalic acid required to kill a person is around 25 grams. Nevertheless, rhubarb leaves are not pure oxalic acid, and it would take around 11 pounds of the leaves to get that much. Wait wait! I’d avoid it.

5. Asparagus

Like rhubarb, the asparagus plant’s favorite section – the young stems – is totally safe to consume. Yet, the asparagus conceals a cruel secret: its brilliant red berries are harmful to humans. Just a handful can cause vomiting and diarrhea, though a bit of charcoal will clear that right up.

6. Cashews

Cashews are another delectable delicacy that should never be consumed uncooked. (They’re normally roasted when you purchase them.) The cashew, which is native to the Amazon, is not a nut at all, but rather a seed that protrudes awkwardly from the bottom of the cashew fruit, which is also delicious but seldom seen beyond the tropics. You may have observed that cashews are seldom found in their shell, like almonds or peanuts are. This is because when cashews are raw, they are coated with anacardic acid, which is closely similar to the chemical that causes poison ivy to itch. When you consume it, it becomes much worse.

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