Almost every single day we eat fruit produced from plants that carry lethal poisons. Most of us think that eating fruit can be nothing but healthy but there are hidden dangers in many common foods. Poisons that make you sick, paralyze and even kill you lurk behind some of our favorites. Most of the time we don’t need to be concerned, but occasionally people accidentally kill themselves by unwittingly eating the wrong part of a plant or a wrong fruit altogether. In order to ensure that this never happens to you, I have put together a list of the 10 poisonous fruit you have to be careful dealing with!
Almonds a dry fruit (it is not a nut as many people would have you believe). It has a unique taste and its excellent suitability for use in cooking have made it one of the most popular ingredients in pastry kitchens for centuries. The most flavorsome almonds are bitter almonds (as opposed to “sweet” almonds). They have the strongest scent and are the most popular in many countries. But there is one problem: they are full of cyanide. Before consumption, bitter almonds must be processed to remove the poison. Despite this requirement, some countries make the sale of bitter almonds illegal (New Zealand regretfully is one of them). As an alternative, you can use the pip from an apricot stone which has a similar flavor and poison content. Heating destroys the poison. In fact, you may not know that it is now illegal in the USA to sell raw almonds – all almonds sold are now heat-treated to remove traces of poison and bacteria.
Though really seeds and not nuts, cashews grow inside of a shell-like structure that grows on a fruit. When buying “raw cashews” in the store, take note that these nuts have actually been steamed and are not entirely raw. This is because raw cashews contain urushiol, which is the same chemical that you’d find in poison ivy. It can cause the body to have a very similar reaction to one experienced from poison oak or ivy. If a high level of urushiol is ingested, it can be deadly. Cashew poisoning is rare, but those who handle them in order to manufacture them to get the shell off sometimes experience the side-effects.
Cherries are definitely one of the most versatile fruits. You can eat them raw, cook them, bake them, and get them tart or sweet. Cherries can even be used in certain types of liquor. Despite their overall red goodness, cherries are toxic. If you’ve ever eaten a cherry and without thought chewed on the pip or left it in your mouth, you more than likely introduced hydrogen cyanide into your body. If a cherry pip is chewed, crushed, or somehow damaged, it automatically produces hydrogen cyanide. Symptoms of mild poisoning include headache, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, and vomiting. Larger doses can lead to difficulty breathing, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and kidney failure. Reactions can include coma, convulsions, and death from respiratory arrest.
Asparagus is a vegetable that gives fruit! Yes, a vegetable that gives fruit, a poisonous one, didn’t get it? Well, because by definition vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant. So the vege part is not poisonous and is eaten, but the fruit is. Asparagus has been used from early times as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavour and diuretic properties. The fruit is a small red berry 6–10 mm diameter, which is poisonous to humans.
First off, a little interesting trivia: in the US, thanks to a US Supreme Court decision in 1893, tomatoes are vegetables. In the rest of the world they are considered to be fruit (or more accurately, a berry). The reason for this decision was a tax on vegetables but not fruit. You may also be interested to know that technically, a tomato is an ovary. The leaves and stems of the tomato plant contain a chemical called “Glycoalkaloid” which causes extreme nervousness and stomach upsets. Despite this, they can be used in cooking to enhance flavor, but they must be removed before eating. Cooking in this way does not allow enough poison to seep out but can make a huge difference in taste. Finally, to enhance the flavor of tomatoes, sprinkle a little sugar on them. Now we just need to work out whether they are “toe-mah-toes” or “toe-may-toes”.