We’ve all walked into to the grocery store to pick up some produce. Who knew that it could kill you. Apparently many common fruits and vegetables are deadly. Check out this guide to the more nefarious elements of the vegetable kingdom.
Yes, Irish Gold. The harbinger of French Fries and mashed potatoes is actually a member of the nightshade family. (Tomatoes are part of that family too, just not poisonous). The spud contains a toxin called solanine, a plant defense. It causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, headache and dizziness. In rare cases, this poison can bring on a coma or even death. I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve eaten plenty of potatoes, and haven’t gotten sick yet.” True, but how many raw potatoes have you eaten? It seems that cooking the spud kills most of the solanine. I wonder how many chefs experimented with raw potatoes before figuring that one out?
This hardy side dish turns out to be deadly when it turns into a main course. When corn becomes most of a person’s meal (as it did with early settlers), then something akin to scurvy develops. You see, the niacin in corn is very hard to absorb by the body. Traditional recipes added lime to aid the absorption of niacin. What’s the big deal, you say. Well, without enough niacin, people develop pale skin that blisters when exposed to sunlight. Folk have dementia that keeps them up all night. Digestive problems keep them from eating normally. Pretty much all the symptoms of vampirism. That’s what people in Europe thought after importing corn.
Ever wonder why every other nut can be sold with its shell except the cashew? This nut is in the same family as poison ivy. The shells have the same irritating oil, urushiol. The nut is safe to eat. But the shell will create a rash in various parts of the body (imagine chewing on poison ivy). The worst part, even if the outside of the shell touches the nut, it could transfer the poison. Purveyors of this nut steam the little buggers open, thus all cashews are partially cooked (and a bit more pricey).
Red Kidney Beans
Eating only a few of these beans raw will bring on severe nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The poison is called phytohaemagglutinin (this stuff is in most beans, but especially high in the red kidney variety). Just like potatoes, these beans are completely healthy when properly cooked.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s cook your food well, and have some variety in your diet. Otherwise, you could end up sick or dead.