Posted by: thescoundrel | January 26, 2012

Bring on the Doughnuts

I have been working in home gardens since I was old enough to walk.  I have been cooking since I was in fifth grade. In college I took a course that certified me in food service sanitation. So I am familiar with a lot of the dangers involved in bringing food from the harvest to the meal table.  The news is constantly warning about dangers from improperly handled and/or cooked meats and fish products. However there is also danger from many of the plants and fruits that we grow in our yards and gardens.

I think most people know that the stems and leaves of tomato and potato plants are highly toxic. Along with peppers, eggplant and several other species – they are all part of the deadly nightshade family. (Kind of makes you want to pull out the old witches kettle, next time you indulge.) Yet the fruits of the tomato/pepper/eggplant and tubers of the potato are very edible and nutritious. Though eggplant should be cooked to remove toxins  naturally contained in the fruit, before consuming. One problem with potatoes is that if they have started displaying a green color, it is an indicator that the poison Solanine has began to build-up in the tuber. I have actually eaten green potatoes all my life though they should be discarded for safety. As a kid I can remember a lot of my family picked poke salad greens for our consumption.  If improperly cooked the plant is poisonous to eat. Another potentially toxic food that has always been on our family table -though I am not a big fan of it- is rhubarb.  All parts of the plant contain poison though the most dangerous concentration is contained in the leaves. As a kid, until I was scolded by my parents,  I used to crack open peach pits in order eat the bitter almond like seed contained inside which also contains poison. Actually many seeds of fruits contain varying levels of poison. Most of this stuff I learned as a kid growing up in the country. Still as much as you know, it seems that  there are always  things to learn about the food we eat.

I love cashews. Yet I found out over the years I have to limit my intake to a bare minimum. If I eat more than a handful at a time my whole body begins to itch. I never understood why until a few year ago. It seems that the cashew nut  is botanically a seed that grows on the outside of the cashew apple. The tree is actually related to poison ivy. I am highly allergic to members of the Poison Ivy family. In fact a raw cashew nut  contains a considerable amount of a toxin that has to be cooked out of the product before it is edible. For that reason it is illegal to retail raw cashew nuts in many places. The toxin of the cashew nut  is so strong that the cooking process must take place outdoors.  Something I just learned in the ;ast few years was, although they do not seem to effect me in the manner cashews do, both mangoes and pistachio nuts are also in the same biological family as cashews.

Just recently I found out a product I have eaten often during my life is also highly toxic. Who knew!  It seems that kidney beans, a staple in many recipes, especially two of my favorite dishes – kidney bean salad and chili – are highly toxic unless cooked for a lengthy time. As few as two-to-three raw  undercooked beans can cause illness in a human. Of course most of the kidney beans I have used over the years have been canned and precooked at the factory. However I have at times cooked raw kidney beans from scratch. The interesting thing I read about cooking kidney beans is that they must be cooked at a hard boil for considerable minutes to remove the toxin. Plus the use of a slow cooker to cook kidney beans can actually increase the amount of toxin in the batch of beans. Kidney bean toxicity was a strange lesson for an individual that has been cooking and eating them, as long as I have.

Not that any of this will stop me from eating any of my favorite fruits and vegetables. Heck cashews can make me itch furiously – still I allow myself to eat them on occasion. The thing is, any food can be dangerous. I take a pill that does not allow me to eat grapefruit. That is a real bummer as I used to eat a lot of Texas Rio Red grapefruit during the season. Some people are allergic to many everyday food items such as peanuts. Fortunately I am not one of those people. Pathogens can be hiding on your fruit or vegetables just as they can be hidden on meats and other proteins. Many people with health threatening diseases have to juggle their intakes of foods -like those high in potassium– that can exacerbate their condition.  Most of this is old news – still as with my recent education about kidney beans – there is always more to learn about what you are eating. Maybe we should all just stick to  a steady diet of doughnuts and Twinkies!


  1. Interesting post.

    The reason grapefruit is to be avoided while taking medications is that it acts like digestive juice and may breakdown the medication too fast resulting in too much of it being in your bloodstream at once.

    Check with your doctor, but in many cases it’s okay to consume grapefruit after X amount of hours after taking your medication.

  2. Learned a lot from the article. I like apples, but can only have one a day
    or I get hives. Sign me up for the doughnuts and Twinkies diet thouth.

  3. Thanks for your input Mary. Sadly I was told to stay away completely. They put me on a statin drug a couple years back and I have been informed that the chemical in grapefruit can cause the drug to build-up in your system to the point that it can damage your liver and/or kidneys. Though I have read some articles that suggest a small amount is acceptable, others articles and my health providers tell me even a small amount can be dangerous with the statin drugs. I have seen kidney failure and it is not pretty.Though he has never told me how it happened, my cousin had to have a kidney transplant about ten years back and has to live a very spartan life when it comes to food and drink. My mother contracted a food borne illness called Listeria a few years back and the antibiotics they put her on shut down her kidneys. The last two years she was alive she had to have regular dialysis treatments. So sadly I have given up my Texas Rio Red grapefruits – I guess better safe than sorry in this instance. The local grocery store -HyVee- was running their January sale on them last week where you could get 18 lbs for $7. I had to just walk on by. I used to buy a couple bags of the 18 lb bags during late January and early February. I would keep some for myself and pass out the rest to friends and family. I might have grapefruit for three meals a day, plus my snacks, before statins, when they were in season. But the raven says never more- never more.

  4. Thanks Cruiser. Apples have never had any effect on me that I can remember. Thank God for that as I love apples. And there are so many varieties available that you never saw at the store when I was a kid. I remember growing up the choices seemed to be Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathon, Winesap, McIntosh and a couple of others. Now it seems when I go to the store I spend a lot of time just trying to decide what type to purchase. Generally I lean towards the Royal Galas. I also like the Pinata version that I find available. But you can never rule out my past favorites – like the Golden Delicious. You know a fruit that is kind of ending its season but you don’t see around here much is persimmons. Where I grew up there were many Persimmon trees. It is one of those fruits that are tricky to eat as the center has an alum taste that makes a mouth numbing pucker. Though many of the newer hybrids have eliminated the pucker part. You can find the Japanese variety at the stores locally though they are not cheap. I have to indulge myself on occasion. The funny thing about them is the more beat-up they look – the sweeter they are. They don’t even ripen properly until after a heavy frost. I have a love/avoidance relationship with doughnuts (probably why I am on the statin), but I would rather have a persimmon than any doughnut you could hand me; though a chocolate-cherry angel creme filled doughnut from Krispy Creme might give a persimmon a run for my attention.

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