10 Poisonous Foods That Tickles Our Taste Buds
Our everyday food item contains, among other things, plant produce that may be laced with deadly poisons. However, mass production of fruits and vegetables ensures we are always on the safe side, or at least most of the time.
Mentioned below is ten of the most commonly found poisons that often land up in our kitchens which we should be careful of.
Potatoes were introduced in Europe in the 16th century, and has since then been a regular feature of our history books. Though its appearance can be linked to other unfortunate instances of nature like crop failure and severe famine, it is and will continue in all probability, to feature prominently in the diet of most western families. Much like tomatoes, the stem and leaves of the potatoes too contain poison. This includes the potatoes itself if left to turn green, with it being indicative of high concentrations of glykoalkaloid poison. Instances of poisoning due to potatoes are rare and far between, but it does happen often and on. Common symptoms are a period of weakness and a state of confusion that can lead to coma, followed by even death. Consuming green potatoes or drinking potato leaf tea has been found to be the prime reason for causing most deaths due to potato poisoning in the US in the last fifty years.
First, an interesting piece of information: tomatoes came to be considered as vegetables in the US as per a US Supreme Court order of 1893, though in the rest of the world, it continues to be designated as a fruit; or a berry, to be more precise. All of it had to do with a tax that was levied on vegetables but not on fruits. However, it is interesting to note that technically, a tomato is nothing but an ovary. A chemical called ‘Glycoalkaloid’, present in the leaves and stems of the tomato plant can lead to the occurrence of extreme nervousness and stomach upsets, though they may be used to enhance flavor in cooking. However, they have to be removed before eating. This makes a huge difference as far as taste is concerned while this method of cooking also preventing poison to seep out in appreciable quantity. Also, sprinkling a little sugar on the tomatoes further enhances their flavor. Now the thing that needs to be sorted out is whether they are ‘toe-mah-toes’ or ‘toe-may-toes’.
First of all, almonds are not nuts, as many believe it to be, but seeds. And the most wonderful seed at that that also serves many purpose. The utter ease with which it can be used in cooking along with a taste that is unique to it, almonds have created a niche of its own for centuries, and without which, pastries won’t perhaps taste as great. Almond that exudes the best flavor are the bitter almonds and not the sweet ones. It is their strong scent that has made them extremely popular in many parts of the world. However, there’s a flip side though, for they’re full of cyanide. This makes bitter almonds to be dangerous if consumed without proper processing done to remove the poison. Unfortunately, in spite of such a requirement, some countries have deemed it illegal to sell bitter almonds, with New Zealand being one of them. In such cases, the pip from an apricot stone, with a similar flavor and poison content, can be an excellent alternative to bitter almonds. A way to rid the almonds of its poison is to heat them, which destroys the poison. In fact, not many may be knowing the fact that the sale of raw almonds have now been banned by law in many countries and that all almonds sold is required to be heat treated to remove poison and bacteria.
Cherry is an extremely popular fruit, one that can be put to a variety of uses. For instance, they are required in liqueur production, in cooking or can also be eaten raw. It belongs to the same family as plums, apricots, peaches as well as almonds. However, what makes almonds unique is that it is the only fruit that is cultivated especially for its seed. A common feature of the above mentioned fruits are that their leaves and seeds contain certain chemicals that are extremely poisonous in nature. Crushing, chewing or even slight injury to cherry seeds is all that is required for it to release prussic acid or hydrogen cyanide. So the next time you are enjoying your cherries, you know what is to be avoided.
Much like almonds and cherries, apple seeds too contain cyanide, though in very less concentrations. We often end up eating apple seeds unknowingly but since the poison content in the seeds of a single apple is much less, there’s no real risk of getting severely sick. However, the same cannot be said if one chews and consumes a large number of them, and can even lead to death if apple seeds in sufficient quantities is consumed. A single apple simply does not have enough seeds to make one fall ill, let alone die, but one will do good to avoid apple-eating competitions.
Toadstools are known to us all, along with the fact that they are poisonous. Not many of us are aware that toadstools are actually mushrooms and not a different type of plant. In fact, toadstool is often used as slang for poisonous mushroom. Though there are some tell-tale signs that indicate whether a mushroom is poisonous or not, they may well vary for different varieties. So it’s always a good idea to stay clear of unknown varieties of mushrooms. Some signs that may be indicative of its poisonous nature are that the mushroom should have a flat cap that is devoid of any bumps while gills should be pink or black in color since mushrooms with white gills have often been found to be poisonous. Also the gills should remain attached to the cap instead of the stalk if it is pulled off. However, it’s extremely important to understand that the above rules may not be applicable to each and every type of mushroom and that those mushrooms whose origin is unknown is best avoided.
Elderberry trees are large and quite attractive to look at. They produce thousands of tiny flowers that sport a nice soft aroma, all of which goes in the making of elderberry liqueur and soda. The flower is also eatable, and is prepared by first battering them followed by deep-frying. However, we need to be on our guard since the beauty is just not skin deep. In fact, some parts of the tree including the roots are extremely poisonous, enough to create severe stomach ailments. So, the next time you wish to include elderberry flowers in your menu, make sure that its just the flowers that you consume.
Rhubarb is one plant of whose potential we are perhaps yet to be fully aware of. Responsible for some of the finest tasting puddings, rhubarb can also be grown easily at home. The stem of this plant is eatable and tastes fantastic while the roots work great as a laxative and has been in use as a poop-softener for over 5000 years. However, there’s a twist to the story. For the leaves of rhubarb plants is known to contain a poison as well as a corrosive acid, which becomes all the more potent when mixed with water and soda.
Castor oil is an integral constituent of many food items that we eat, including candies and chocolates. Apart from this, some people have developed a habit of consuming small amount of it on a daily basis, besides forcing it down on their unwilling children as well. However, what most of us are unaware of is that castor bean is deadly, and that just one bean is enough to kill a human, while for a horse, four of it will be required to bring upon it a similar fate. Fortunately, the castor oil marked for human consumption is prepared with enough care to ensure it is safe. It’s the chemical ricin that makes castor beans so destructive, and it is due to its extreme toxicity that workers engaged in collecting seeds have strict guidelines to follow so as to prevent accidental death.
Only the flesh of the pufferfish is considered to be eatable since it is believed to contain the poison in far less concentrations. It is in fact, considered a delicacy in many parts of the world like Japan or Korea. Such is the poisonous nature of pufferfish, referred to as fugu in Japan, that chefs dealing with it need to undergo special training that spans from 2 to 3 years and are required to clear a set of tests so as to obtain the mandatory certificate of practice. Apart from a written test, the chef will have to demonstrate his cutting abilities with him actually consuming the parts that he has cut forming the culminating part of the test. The tests are demanding, so much that only about 30% of the applicants make it through. This does not mean that the rest die due to consumption of fugu fish since they can fail in the earlier rounds as well. The poison causes a slight tingling sensation of the mouth and it forms the only food that the Emperor of Japan is legally barred from eating, keeping in mind his safety and health concerns.