Poisonous Food | Part 1

Fries, tomato soup, almond cake. The best foods ever, right? What if I told you they were poisonous?

Well, I may be exaggerating a bit. My point is that there are a lot of foods out there which seem innocent. Humble, even. In actual fact, they contain toxins and poisons which, if left untreated and unprocessed, would make us sick and perhaps even kill us. I’m going to take you through some foods whose toxicity may surprise you.

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Let’s get started, shall we?

Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew!

Everyone loves potatoes. As good ol’Samwise alludes to, they’re so versatile, tasty and just plain awesome. When I was in high school, I hosted a potato party at my house, where everyone bought a potato dish (this is a true story). The Irish had a freaking famine when  their potatoes were ravaged by disease. Potatoes can do no wrong, right? WRONG!

Potatoes are such a worldwide staple, and given their esteem it may surprise you that they contain poison. Potatoes are part of the nightshade family  – the same family to which tomatoes and eggplant belong. They also contain chemical compounds known as glycoalkaloids – also found in the deadly nightshade plants.

Glycoalkaloid content in potato plants is concentrated most highly in the flowers, leaves and stems, however lower levels do exist in the root which is of course what potatoes are.  If potatoes are exposed to light, physical damage or time, the level of glycoalkaloids becomes more potent. It makes itself known by giving the potato a distinctive green tinge. When ingested in large amounts, glycoalkaloids can cause vomiting, diarrhea and paralysis of the central nervous system. Victims will often go through a sense of weakness and confusion, followed by a coma and eventually death.

That’s terrifying.

But don’t go freaking out whenever you see a green potato chip (or crisp), because potato poisoning is incredibly rare. Unless you’re actively seeking out green potatoes to eat, it is highly unlikely that you will ever ingest enough of the toxin to cause any type of harm. This is because the potatoes that are readily available to us contain an almost minute dose of the chemical. Furthermore, cooking potatoes at high temperatures destroys most of the toxic content.

Hurrah!

…perhaps I love potatoes too much.

When she breaks the tender peel, to taste the apple in my hand, her breath will still, her blood congeal, then I’ll be fairest in the land! 

…thankfully this is far from the norm when it comes to apples. Although, I can definitely see how they’d make an evil person’s life easier. Just saying.

Apples are part of the rose family, and it is their seeds (not the fruit itself) that are poisonous. Luckily we don’t actually eat the seeds so it’s not too much of a problem for us, but don’t worry if you accidentally swallow them either. This isn’t enough to kill you (!), but it’s good to know that the seeds contain cyanogenic glycoside a precursor to cyanide. When chewed, the seeds will undergo an enzymatic effect that turns this compound into cyanide.

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Interestingly, a lot of fruits out there have poisonous compounds in their seeds – namely cherries, plums, apricots and peaches. Untreated almonds, too, are noted for harbouring cyanide.

According to Wikipedia, there has been one suspected case of fatal cyanide poisoning from apple seeds. I couldn’t find anymore information about it, but apparently  they chewed and swallowed an entire cup of seeds. Ouch.

*mildly interesting side note: apples are plant ovaries. Mmmm, delicious delicious ovary.

Part two coming soon!

Featured image is credit of maskimxul, used with permission from his Deviantart page: http://maskimxul.deviantart.com/art/Poison-Stamp-141733590

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