VitaminQ - a temple of trivia lists and curious words
Vitamin Q: the book!
~ Wednesday, January 21, 2004
DON’T LET NATURE KILL YOU
10 poisonous natural substances to avoid:
1 The yellow fruit called the ackee, common in African and West Indian cooking was formerly banned in the USA. The problem lies in knowing just when the fruit is ripe. Too soon or late and the fruit can poison or even kill you.
2 Although a stimulant in tiny quantities, in coffee and other drinks, caffeine is extremely toxic if ingested in larger amounts.
3 Industrial ethanol, sometimes used as a fuel, is not good for us, though many people used to drink it as a cheap and potent booze. To combat this, manufacturers add methanol, which is poisonous, to make methylated spirits.
4 Though most turtles are edible and are commonly eaten in various parts of the world, a few species, including the hawksbill turtle, have skin and flesh which contains chemicals which are toxic.
5 In rural India, food shortages sometimes drive people to exist on tanku peejaw, a simple gruel made from boiled mango seeds. Unfortunately, when the seed paste is left for a day or two, it ferments into a deadly pulp which has killed many people.
6 The fleshy red part of rhubarb makes a tasy ingredient for a pie, but the leaves are very poisonous and must never be eaten. The leaves of potato and tomato plants are also both harmful.
7 As part of the defence against the rigours of the Arctic lifestyle, the polar bear stores large amounts of vitamin A in its liver, so much in fact that to eat a dish of the liver might well cause a hunter to suffer a fatal overdose.
8 The fugu, a Pacific blowfish, is responsible for over 100 diner deaths each year in the Far East. It contains a toxin, a drip of which can be lethal when it meets the nervous system. Chefs must be licensed to laboriously prepare and cook the fish which is predictably expensive.
9 Learning to tell edible fungi their from poisonous and emetic cousins can be difficult, but there are often clues in the names - death cap, death angel, panther cap, destroying angel. And the sickener mushroom will, as you might imagine, make you vomit.
10 Some poisonous plant names also contain clues - deadly nightshade, bleeding heart, dogbane, devil’s trumpet. Since the mountain laurel shrub is also known as the lambkill, calfkill and sheepkill, you might want to keep your farm animals away from it.