Tastes Deadly!

Tastes Deadly, this post is about the so called “deadly nightshade” (Solanum nigrum) but for those that don’t live in Australia the tittle is also a play on the words, In Australia deadly has two meanings, deadly as in deadly poisonous and deadly as in wickedly cool/good!

All Solanums have this beautiful simple flower & if you look at tomatoes or potatoes you will see thier flowers are similar as they are all in the same family.

As a child I was told that Solanum nigrum was “deadly” and not to go near it, it is a  weed here and is look upon with unfriendly eyes and hands itching to rip and yank  them from their earthly beds. My grandparents have a farm and it was and is a constant menace as far as they are concerned they can’t get rid of them quick enough.
Recently my uncle and grandfather visited me in my garden a rare occasion and as I showed my grandfather proudly around my new raised garden beds I heard from behind me my uncle say “what are these weeds doing in here you need to pull them out before they fruit and spread everywhere!!”  I turned to see him hand out stretch his claw like fingers heading towards my nurtured beautifully lush Solanum nigrum’s,  I in as a controlled voice as possible said “Don’t you touch those bloody plants I eat them and they are nearly starting to fruit!’  the response one of incredulous came back at me in a snap “No wonder you are always sick!” I was a bit flabbergast and responded “Excuse me I never get sick thank you! it is you guys that always have colds and are unwell all the time my health is the best it has ever been thanks to all my new weedy friends!”

See the green berries and below in next picture the ripe black berries, the green berries will make you sick if you eat a heap of them, they must be ripe, nice and black!

When people don’t understand something they get defensive strange response but there you go humans are a strange bunch, seeing he wasn’t interested in questioning his misinformed beliefs about this plant I didn’t bother to explain myself I just moved on and continued my garden tour half of which is “weeds” and just to clarify that particular comment a bit he was mistaking the conditions associated with the way I was born causing me to have back, joint and migraine problems all my life as a sicknesses and as far as I’m concerned they are two different things, I very rarely get cold when most around me suffer badly from them, so just to be clear my foraging life style is the best thing that has ever happened to me and has done nothing but improve my health helping me to deal with my ongoing painful conditions much better!

Enough about that back to the star of the show the gorgeous black  beauty Solanum nigrum, I allowed several plants to come up naturally in the new soil I bought into the yard from my grandfathers farm and I was exited to actually make something substantial with all the berries I was expecting, I had nibbled here and there at times in the past on wild feral ones around the place but that wasn’t enough for me so I studied up on uses for the foliage as a food and found many references to populations of people all around the world using the foliage as a food if prepared properly which involves parboiling to neutralize the toxins.

Deadly nightshade (Solanum nigrum) berries

I picked a bunch and prepared as per researched information and tentatively tasted a mouthful of the foliage, after the amount of boiling required which was 15 minutes, change water and another 15 minutes was very soft like over cooked silver beet leaves and the taste was that of any overcook greens nothing special and not really that pleasant, so a bit disappointed I consoled myself with the thought of the eagerly anticipated berries. I did finish the bowl of greens and I’m glad of the knowledge that they are a food source if ever actually required in a survival situation so no loss it’s all about learning and sharing knowledge.
Anyway in my berry anticipation fever I went out everyday I could to check the abundant green berries to see if there was any color change, waiting, waiting, waiting and finally after being stuck inside  for a day or two I was pleasantly surprised to see beautiful black perfectly round berries on all the bushes and in my excitement I ate this first flush fresh off the bush enjoying the bursts of tart juice as you bit on them, I love their refreshing flavor and they are now one of my favorite berries, not that they are technically a berry but anyway, the only problem I had with them was they ripen gradually not all at once so I had to go out everyday and pick like half a cup full over a months or so and freeze until I had enough to do something with but that was ok the excitement just built as my frosty jar got fuller and fuller when finally full I made this yummy Deadly sauce!

Deadly nightshade sauce-

  • 500 grams Solanum nigrum aka “Deadly nightshade”
  • 3 cup extra water
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup fruit vinegar

salt, pepper, bay leaves and a coupler cloves

Put fruit, water, vinegar, seasonings into a pot and simmer until reduce slightly about 20 minutes take bay leaves and cloves out and blend put back in pot add sugar and hard boil for 15 minutes or so and bottle. It is quite tomatoey but tarter and tangier almost citrusy, zesty…….

I was a bit disappointed with the color as the liquid that was in the jar after defrosting was a gorgeous violet color unfortunately it didn’t maintain this color but the taste makes up for it, you can’t have everything can you!

I only got one bottle of sauce out of this lot but it is very concentrated and you only need like a table spoon to add a nice flavorful punch to any dish.
Well I hope I have challenged any preconceived misinformed ideas you may hold about this tasty, useful, abundant, hardy plant, I think the two big injustices in the wild food plant world is the totally wrong, undeserved bad reputation that the Solanum nigrum and the Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) has (see other blogs) been given. Both these plant are what I would call toxic raw but edible if prepared properly and I’m determined to champion the cause and benefits or these two misunderstood beauties of the plant kingdom.


17 comments on “Tastes Deadly!

  1. Deadly nightshade usually refers to Atropa Belladona, which can be deadly. Solanum nigrum is usualy called Blackberry nightshade-edible berries when fully ripe, I’ve eaten them for years, but I did get a bad reaction from some in Melbourne-sweaty, dizzy, headache-lasted a few hours. I hadn’t heard of detoxifying the leaves-interesting. According to wikipedia solanine is only destroyed at temps above 243 degrees C, and it is toxic, but many cultures eat the boiled leaves?

    I’ld heard of people eating Amanita muscaria, your post was great. You can do the same with Armillaria luteobubalina, which is common in Eucy forests in Autumn.

  2. Yer common names change everywhere you go that’s the problem with using them for identification purposes, I have always known Solanum nigrum as deadly nightshade, and when I googled it and looked in images there are heaps of different one. I don’t know about the temperature thingy but read a fair bit about it being used as a food in different countries and I trust that I have a lot of faith in local and indigenous knowledge. I wonder why you reacted that one time, strange maybe there was poison on them…..
    I eat Amanita muscari there are blogs here somewhere about it and I’m using them fermented as a joint pain reliever just started so ready to blog about it yet.
    I will keep an eye out for the Armillaria luteobubalina have you actually eaten them? 🙂

  3. Oh dear …. just pulled a heap out of the garden and threw in the compost! I should know by now to check EVERYTHING considered a weed before consigning it to be so 🙂

  4. Its a bit late now anyway Karen, I just pulled all mine out they stop ripening as it gets colder so best picking was from Feb to mid May. The ones I pulled had heaps of green berries on them still but just not ripening. They will come back up next season so you can do it them. 🙂

  5. Yeah, not sure why, perhaps some individual plants have higher concentrations of alkaloids, or maybe it was something else that caused the illness and I assumed it was Blackberry nightshade berries.

    Yeah, I’ve tried the Armillaria, but not much. Very bitter raw-just nibbled and spat out. Only tried a lttle bit cooked, much better, but still spat it out. Next time I’ll ingest a bit-but like many fungi, it can react with enzymes in the body that usually detoxify alcohol, so avoid alcohol. Did you have a reaction when you had Coprinus comatus and alcohol? They make pills for alcoholics out of them.

  6. In most the literature it specifies coprinus atramentarius to not drink alcohol with so not sure it applies to the Coprinus comatus but wasn’t game to try! I don’t drink much now anyway so not a problem for me really. Cheers.

  7. My family have eaten these for yrs (generations). I make pies and jam and more recently a delicious liqueur of amazing colour. I pick as they ripen and freeze till i have enough to use. I have also used with mulberries when i only have a small quantity of each.

  8. Yer they are great, I will be using a lot more of these from now on for sure. What is your liqueur recipe mate? sound good especially if it keep that gorgeous purple color. 🙂

  9. I think what you have here is Solanum americanum, the berries of S. nigrum are usually more dull than the ones in your picture. The two are very closely related. This is probably why, when I looked up historical sources on whether or not you can eat the berries, I, more than once, encountered documented confusion as to whether the person had identified S. americanum as nigrum, and vice versa. That is what makes the anecdotal info so valuable. Thanks. I agree with Forest Fungi, Deadly nightshade is the monicker of belladonna. I wouldn’t advise anyone eat that. I’ve seen first hand what belladonna poisoning looks like. Not pretty. Some animals can eat it, helping to germinate the seed. But to humans, it’s one of the most lethal plants in the eastern hemisphere.

  10. Yer they are both virtually the same plant with very slight differences, it’s to hard to go into botanical definitions ect here but S americanum has shinier berries than S nigrum and I think these look shinny in the bowl because of the juice on them, I didn’t take a picture of them on the plant and I cant remember now but they may well be S americanum….. I wasn’t to concerned as I know both are safe.
    And yes I haven’t personally seen the effects of Belladonna but have heard about them, I suffer very badly from migraines and as a child doctors had me on these experimental drops that contained Belladonna I had to put them under my tongue, I cant really remember if they were effective or not in relieving the pain and I don’t see this treatment offered anymore so I’d say they don’t recommend them anymore.
    Would love a pie recipe mate if you have one to share on here cheers. 🙂

  11. Some Pacific Islanders bake the leaves in the earth oven outside, it can be mixed with coconut cream, onions and any meat.

  12. Oh great I didn’t know that, thanks for sharing did you info say if there was any special prep or did the baking for a while neutralize the toxins in the leaves?. I may have to try that when I get a chance.

  13. My family heritage is Russian-German. When I was growing up in western Kansas everyone in the family ( aunts and gramma’s) grew what we called blackberries in their gardens. These had the most amazing flavor of anything I have ever tasted in my life. They were used in everything. My mother made a pastry that the kids called blackberry muldush. It was our interputation of whatever the gean name was. Once I married and moved away, I lost track of relatives that had the seeds that were handed around to anyone that needed them. When I moved to Minnesota years ago these plants were growing wild in my yard. I was
    Cautioned not to eat them because they were deathly poisonous. So I have been pulling them all these years while still looking for what was grown in gardens when I was a kid. So after all this my question is- how does a person distinguish between the solanum americanum and the poisonous kind? Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you.

  14. Hi jacque interesting family story you tell, tha only answer I have is you have to research until you r confident in identification of these plants. “Deathly poisonous” is an incorrect statement based on fear n lack ov understanding that all, we need to relearn plant ID n 2 trust our own senses, humans have been using plants for food, medicine n cultural purposes from the beginning ov time we have lost a lot of knowledge along the way.
    All Solanums, potatoes n tomatoes ect have toxic chemicals at different levels in different parts ov the plant. None ov it is DEADLY! you would have to eat so much plant material or have a allergic reaction to it for it to actually kill you. Your body would tell you something was wrong it isn’t like some (few) Fungi that can n will kill you with one bite, no antidote (another very misunderstood n demonized important plant family) don’t get me wrong there r deadly plants out there but much fewer than fear, fear mongers n food industry spin doctors would have us all believe.
    So I’m saying research first look up pictures ov Solanums americana n S. nigra compare pictures of the real deadly night shade Atropa belladonna they are in the same plant family but you will see there are identifying differences n you have to be confident in knowing these differences then when you r sure try a few black berry (not green) see if they taste like what you remember I think you will be surprised your body will have a memory of the taste just feel your way through it n I hope it all comes back to you n you enjoy tha fruits ov your past n now your future. P 🙂

  15. Excuce me dis is my blog if ya don’t like it don’t read it, not proppa gamin english! cheers have a goooood day.

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