By Melissa Breyer, Mother Nature Network
One of the great perks of being around during this phase of human
history is that we seem to have a relatively good understanding of food.
Which doesn't mean that we are necessarily heading in a great direction
and its ilk seem rather self-destructive to the species), but through
trial and error, we have a lot of wisdom behind us. We know that
steaming the bud of an otherwise intimidating thistle flower yields a
delicious cooked artichoke and that beyond the menacing claw of a
lobster awaits yet another delicacy.
We can also thank our foodie forefathers for discovering the things that
can kill us. To those who discovered that belladonna and hemlock should
not be eaten: we salute you. But we're a funny bunch. Although our most
basic instinct is for survival, we continue to eat poisonous things, or
parts of them at least. If you doubt it, consider the following foods.
Photo by: Renee Comet
1. Lima beans
Like many legumes,
the seemingly innocent lima bean should not be eaten raw - doing so can
be lethal. (And who wants to die in such an ignoble way as death by
lima bean?) Also known as butter beans, the legumes can contain a high
level of cyanide, which is part of the plant's defense mechanism. Here
in the U.S. there are restrictions about cyanide levels in commercially
grown lima bean varieties, but not so in less developed countries, and
many people can get sick from eating them. Even so, lima beans should be
cooked thoroughly, and uncovered to allow the poison to escape as gas.
Also, drain the cooking water to be on the safe side.
Photo by: Nate Gray
Whoever ate the first pufferfish must have been adventurous. (And most likely died shortly thereafter.) Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin,
a deadly toxin that is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide.
The poison in one pufferfish is enough to wipe out 30 humans, and
there's no known antidote.
Yet, many people eat it. Called fugu in Japan, the meat of the
pufferfish is a highly prized dish that is prepared by specially
trained, licensed chefs. Even so, according to government figures, there
were 23 deaths among 338 fugu poisoning cases recorded in Japan from
2000 to 2009.