Top 10 Fruits That Can Kill! (Part 2)
Fruit is supposed to be the “healthy” choice when it comes to snacking – the thing you pick over potato chips and chocolate bars. And, while, for the most part, fruit is exactly that, there are other times where opting for a specific kind could endanger your life. So, to make sure you make the responsible fruity choices, here are more of the Top 10 Fruits That Can Kill! (Part 2)
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but just what exactly does this saying actually mean? Rest assured, eating apples every day won’t kill you; they’re so full of nutrients, your body will be thanking you. What you need to be aware of, however, are the seeds found inside the apple – these are the bad boys you need to stay away from. As it turns out, apple seeds are extremely poisonous. Again, if you’ve carelessly swallowed one or two seeds in your life, don’t panic just yet; it doesn’t mean you’re living out your last days. Apple seeds – as well as the seeds of related plants like pears and cherries – contain amygdalin, which is a cyanogenic glycoside composed of cyanide and sugar. If amygdalin is metabolized in the digestive system, the chemical will degrade into hydrogen cyanide, which is highly poisonous and can kill someone within minutes. Thankfully, a death-by-apple is very unlikely as many factors come into play. For instance, you’d need to ingest a pretty huge amount of seeds for them to actually harm you – anywhere from 150 to several thousands. Plus, they need to be crushed or chewed for the amygdalin to be accessible. So, unless you’ve been consistently chowing down on all of your apple seeds and you eat multiple a day, you should be able to save yourself from a tragic death. At least now, you’ve been warned! Another way to keep the doctor away.
We know what you’re thinking: “what? Asparagus is a fruit – and it could kill me? Well, the answer is yes and no – let us explain. Asparagus is a vegetable, but it does have little berries growing on them, which is not something that’s usually known to people. Asparagus spears themselves are nothing to be feared – you can even eat them raw if you truly want to, although it’s not recommended – it’s all the fruit’s fault. Okay, technically, the berries aren’t biologically berries, but still. The little round, bright red fruits might look enticing and tasty, but don’t be fooled – just a handful of those could cause a lot of damage. Asparagus berries are toxic and can bring a lot of undesired side effects. From skin irritation to stomach problems like vomiting and diarrhea, it’s better to steer clear of the stuff. If you go berry picking or if you grow your own asparagus at home, make sure to go to an area where kids and pets can’t accidentally get their hands on some. The berries are usually about only 6 to 10 millimeters in diameter, so even if you think you’ll be able to easily spot them because of their bright color, they’re so small, you might very well miss them, even if you’re actively looking for them. In other words, just be very careful of asparagus plants you find in the wild and always clean and cook them properly to avoid any hazard.
In case you forgot, yes, tomatoes are a fruit – but that doesn’t mean that you should put it in a fruit salad – you still need to use your better judgment when it comes to that – but that’s beside the point. Not only are tomatoes fruits, but they can also be very toxic ones. Thankfully, however, it’s not the part of the tomato that we generally eat that’s poisonous, but the leaves and stems. In the late 1700s, a large percentage of Europeans even feared the tomato. Hard to believe that something that seems so harmless was once something you needed to stay away from. Before tomatoes even made their way to North American tables, they were actually classified as deadly nightshade, a poisonous family of plants containing toxins harmful to humans, such as tomatine glycoalkaloid. Even though tomatoes are slightly less toxic than others from the nightshade family, if ingested in large doses, tomatine could cause gastrointestinal problems, liver, and even heart damage. The highest concentration is obviously in the leaves and stems but also in the unripe fruit. So, while eating one slightly green tomato won’t be the death of you, you should still be wary before you prepare them and make sure to always discard the leaves and stems.
When you’re fishing through a bowl of cashews, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t: wow, what a tasty fruit – and you would be right. Cashews aren’t fruits, but they do grow inside of one – and that’s the part that can be harmful to you. Technically classified as seeds and not nuts, cashews grow on the outside of an apple-like fruit and look nothing like the ones you find in your trail mix. Before the “raw” cashews can be extracted, they need to be roasted off to remove the toxic hull, which contains urushiol, the same substance found in poison ivy. Eating too much urushiol can be deadly. Cashew poisoning is rather rare but workers can sometimes get side effects simply from handling them while removing the shell. So, the “raw” cashews you buy at the store aren’t entirely raw – they’ve at least been steamed in order to remove the toxin and can be further roasted before they’re brought to the market. The fruit, which is known as a cashew apple, is popular in Brazil, its native land, and is even made into a much-beloved juice called suco de caju. Since the fruit are too delicate for travel, they’re solely sold in areas where they’re cultivated like Brazil, Nigeria, India, and Southeast Asia. Basically, don’t go nuts on a cashew gathering spree without properly preparing the seeds.
Don’t worry; you can still enjoy your beloved apricots. The flesh isn’t the problem; it’s the kernels located within the pit of the fruit that can cause an issue. To get to that kernel – which oddly enough looks like an almond – you need to break through the hard pit and access the harmful chemicals. These kernels – or stones – contain amygdalin, also called laetrile, a toxic cyanogenic glycoside our body converts into toxic cyanide. The body can usually detoxify small quantities of cyanide, but if taken in too large quantities, it can lead to cyanide poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, rash, lethargy, joint and muscle aches, as well as low blood pressure, and in extreme cases, death. If you ever mistakenly swallow an apricot pit, don’t sweat it; the seed needs to be crushed or chewed in order to release amygdalin and cause damage – just like with cherry pits and apple seeds. While apricots kernels are highly dangerous, they have also been marketed as alternative medicine, usually called vitamin B17, and some even believe the seed of an apricot has amazing curing properties. Well, wether they do or not, you should never consume more than 2 a day. Or else you may run the risk of suffering from cyanide poisoning.
Also known as “snakewood” and “poison nut,” the Strychnos nux-vomica tree is native to Australia and Southeast Asia. These lovely nicknames are all courtesy of the highly dangerous, deadly berries the trees produce. So deadly, in fact, that strychnine – the highly toxic, colorless, bitter, crystalline alkaloid collected from the tree – has been used as rat poison for over a century. It saved the day in Europe as it helped stem the spread of the bubonic plague. Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods as it could also kill us. The seed of the berries, as well as the bark of the tree, is used to create the poison. If ingested by humans, strychnine can lead to serious adverse health effects, and even the smallest amount can cause a worst-case scenario. Strychnine will prevent the proper operation of the chemical controlling nerve signals to the muscles, making the “off switch” for muscles unavailable. When this “off switch” can’t work correctly, painful spasms occur, leading to manic convulsions so severe that muscle can tear away from the bone. Apparently, victims of strychnine poisoning will achieve bodily positions that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Death then follows from exhaustion or cardiac arrest.
Picture this: you’re walking around in a forest picking pretty flowers when suddenly, you come across a cluster of very cute, bright red little berries. Wouldn’t you be tempted to pluck them as well? Well, for your sake and the sake of your health, if they look anything like this, you would be better off not even touching them. Daphne is a short-lived shrub with clusters of red berries native to Asia, Europe, and North Africa. Often eaten by birds, Daphnees look rather harmless at first, but you shouldn’t be fooled by their charming appearance and flowery scent. Similar to the asparagus fruits in shape, size, and color, Daphnes are just as toxic – if not more. While most birds are immune to the mixture of toxic chemical poison found inside the Daphnees, humans can suffer greatly from ingesting even one little berry. Swallowing a berry can cause a choking sensation, and simply handling the twigs can cause rashes and eczema in some people. Dogs and other pets should also stay as far as possible from Daphnees. Even though there is no edible use for the fruit, Daphnes are usually grown as an ornamental plant during the spring because of the attractive flowers it grows.
3. Yew Berries
Well, would you look at that, some more berries that can kill you! What can we say, there are a lot of berries out there that want to end your life! However, contrary to most of the berries we’ve seen so far, yew berries aren’t all that bad – so to speak. Indeed, with yew berries, you could technically eat the aril or ‘berry’ flesh, as long as you don’t go anywhere near the seed – that’s the very toxic part. Aside from that, nearly every part of the plant is highly toxic – to humans and most animals. The seeds and plant contain taxins; deadly alkaloids that can kill within a few hours after ingestion. Usually, following a poisoning, no symptoms will occur until the heart stops dead. But if there are, they might include trembling, staggering, nervousness, and low blood pressure. The yew shrub can be found in many home landscaping layouts all around the world, mostly due to its evergreen nature, its drought resistance, and ease of care. In the yew’s western variety, the taxol is used to create a drug that treats breast cancer – so it’s not all bad. If you truly want to know what yew berries taste like – for whatever reason – your best bet would be to take out the seed by hand before popping the berry in your mouth – don’t rely on spitting out the seed; that’s just too risky.
Okay, okay, technically, rhubarb is not a fruit per se, more like a vegetable, but hey, it’s usually prepared like a fruit, so we can let this one slide – just think about those strawberry-rhubarb pies your grandma would bake for you. But, how would you feel if we told you that this nice “fruit-for-a-day” isn’t all that nice? If you go anywhere near the leaves, your pie would be a little less comforting and a little more deadly. The severity of the reaction to ingesting rhubarb leaves is all determined by someone’s age, weight, and overall health, as well as the type of rhubarb and the quantity – but in any case, it should always be avoided. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is generally not found in the stalks – at least, not in warm temperatures. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, if ingested in large quantities, symptoms include burning of the throat and mouth, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, seizures, in some cases, kidney failure, and even coma. While deaths are rare, there have been some reports over the years. So, next time you want to cook something with rhubarb, just make sure your stems are safe, never include the leaves, and your dessert will be a blast!
1. Jatropha Fruit
Here’s a change of scenery with a fruit you most likely haven’t heard of, Jatropha. Jatropha is a drought-resistant, tree-like shrub that can be found in all corners of the world, provided they have tropical or sub-tropical climates. For years, the plant was used as medicine to treat all kinds of conditions like colic, cramps, and constipation in rural villages, but its fifteen minutes of fame was quickly over once its true colors were revealed – especially the Indian kind. There have been numerous cases of poisonings in children since they are drawn to the bright yellow berries, not thinking that they are actually toxic. The black seeds of the Jatropha contain highly poisonous toxalbumin curcin as well as ricin, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, kidney damage, and in some cases, death. In fact, as few as three untreated seeds can be fatal to humans. For a while there, Jatropha seeds were even being tested as biofuel to replace the shrinking corn supplies. It seemed like the solution of the century, but the miracle plant turned out not to be so miraculous, after all – it was more of a mirage than anything else. In short, the project plummeted, and Jatropha went back to being a mere poisonous plant, only with its population drastically increased.
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