With a name like nightshade might be hesitant to grow these yet we still do.  Most gardeners know about tomatoes and potatoes but there are many others. How about tomatillos, eggplant, tobacco, oh my, goji berries, don’t forget my favorite peppers, hot or mild.  This looks like a list of some of the favorites at my dinner table.

Why did they think tomatoes were poisonous back in the day?  Well, because they are!  All nightshades have a built-in bug spray and fungus preventer – poison.  Most of the edible ones are not poisonous in quantities that would hurt you and most are really beneficial.   If you are healthy and have 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 altogether. 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!  

Photo by Cup of Couple on

Of course, there are deadly nightshades that will kill you instantly.   Belladonna is the poison that Macbeth was based on.   Steer clear of that one.  But today because 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.

You were always told that you have to eat the potato skin because that is where the good stuff is.  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.  Most gardeners love fried green tomatoes though.  Sliced real thin with just flour and fried to a crisp in bacon grease then smothered in butter and salt and pepper, mmm. 

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

Source: Bud Qualk, McCracken County Master Gardener

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About krjack4

Extension Agent for Horticulture Serving home gardeners and Green Industry professionals, including commercial fruit & vegetable producers. Advisor to: Christian County Master Gardener Association; Downtown Hopkinsville Farmers Market.