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by Bud Qualk, Horticulture Committee Coordinator, Edible Gardens Chairman and Master Gardener
July 19, 2021
comment 2 Comments

With a name like nightshades you might be hesitant to grow these types of plants. What are nightshades? Most gardeners know about tomatoes and potatoes; but there are a variety of nightshade plants. How about tomatillos, eggplants, tobacco, and goji berries? And don’t forget my favorite peppers, hot or mild. This reads like a list of some of the favorites at my dinner table.

Delicious eggplant, with dark fruit that is larger than belladonna


Why did they think tomatoes were poisonous back in the day? Well, because they are!  All nightshades have a built-in bug deterrent and fungus preventer – poison. Most of the edible ones are not poisonous in quantities that would hurt you, and most are beneficial. If you are healthy, with no gut or intestinal problems and do not have an autoimmune disorder, you are fine. If you do suffer from these maladies, then you need to stay clear of nightshades all together.

Ripe tomatoes, note the same five sepals as with the other nightshades


Take a 30-day break from eating these to see if there is any improvement. What do you have to lose? Right? You could lose pain and suffering. The poisons in nightshades are alkaloids and lectins. They are poisonous, but in the edible group the poison is mostly in the leaves and stems. Don’t eat the leaves and stems! 

Of course, there are deadly nightshades that will kill you. Belladonna is the poison mentioned in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. Steer clear of that one. But today because belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is so strong, they have turned a powerful poison into an equally powerful remedy. It is now the source of the antispasmodic drug Atropine.

Poisonous belladonna with small dark fruit


You were always told that you must eat the potato skin because that contains the good stuff. Well, that is where most of the poison is also. The poison can be good for you, but if you have intestinal problems, maybe not so much. Also, stay away from green tomatoes and potatoes if you have these ailments, even though many gardeners love fried green tomatoes. Slicing green tomatoes really thin with just flour, fried to a crisp in bacon grease, then smothered in butter, add salt and pepper, and they will be mmm.

Now that I have scared the heck out of you, let’s all get a steak, baked potato, and tomato salad for dinner.



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by Cherie Lejeune on Thu, 07/22/2021 - 10:49

Bud, this is the best article I have ever read about nightshade plants. Who knew that the toxins in a potato are in the skin, as one example. Thank you. I am sharing it far and wide!

AZ W. Dist. Dir.

by Yuma Desert Gardener on Mon, 08/30/2021 - 20:51

Enjoyed the article. Nightshade veggies are still mighty delicious!

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