Cherries are a very popular fruit – used in cooking, liqueur production, or eaten raw. They are from the same family as plums, apricots, and peaches. All of the previously mentioned fruits contain highly poisonous compounds in their leaves and seeds. Almonds are also a member of this family but they are the only fruit which is harvested especially for its seeds. When the seeds of cherries are crushed, chewed, or even slightly injured, they produce prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide). Next time you are eating cherries, remember not to suck on or chew the pip.
Like the previous two items, apple seeds also contain cyanide – but obviously in much smaller doses. Apple seeds are very often eaten accidentally but you would need to chew and consume a fairly high number to get sick. There are not enough seeds in one apple to kill, but it is absolutely possible to eat enough to die. I recommend avoiding apple eating competitions! Incidentally, if you want to eat an apple and find a worm in it (and hopefully not half a worm), you can drop it in a bowl of salt water which will kill the worm.
Rhubarb is a very underrated plant – it produces some of the nicest tasting puddings and is incredibly easy to grow at home. Rhubarb is something of a wonder plant – in addition to an unknown poison in its leaves, they also contain a corrosive acid. If you mix the leaves with water and soda, it becomes even more potent. The stems are edible (and incredibly tasty) and the roots have been used for over 5,000 years as a laxitive and poop-softener.
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”.
Potatoes have appeared in our history books since their introduction to Europe in the 16th century. Unfortunately they appear largely due to crop failure and severe famine, but they will be forever the central vegetable of most western families daily diet. Potatoes (like tomatoes) contain poison in the stems and leaves – and even in the potato itself if left to turn green (the green is due to a high concentration of the glycoalkaloid poison). Potato poisoning is rare, but it does happen from time to time. Death normally comes after a period of weakness and confusion, followed by a coma. The majority of cases of death by potato in the last fifty years in the USA have been the result of eating green potatoes or drinking potato leaf tea.