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seed and pit edibility: please dispel myths from my childhood...

Hiya... I will sheepishly admit that I do not know if it is OK/safe to consume the seeds and pits of common fruit. Sometimes I just want to eat the entire apple, orange, grape, pomegranite, etc., seeds and all. I'm stuck with a childhood-derived fear of eating seeds and pits, purported at the time to be 'deadly'. Can anyone chime in and dispel my ignorance? Is there anything in the seeds of oranges, apples, etc, that should not be consumed regularly? Perhaps I vaguely recall someone telling me that the almond-like interior 'nut' within the hard outer pit of stone fruit (like peaches and nectarines) was poisonous. But then again, I equally remember a story about such inner seeds being cure-alls for certain diseases ( I've heard, for instance, that a tea brewed from fresh cherry seeds and stems is good for the kidneys)... I'm sure I can find this info via google, but what I was looking for was some anecdotal evidence from people who regularly consume the seeds, stems and 'inner' pits of fruit, with no long-term negative consequences. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Apricot, cherry, and peach pits and apple seeds contain traces of cyanide (as do bitter almonds) but you'd have to eat a huge amount to hurt yourself. The french steep apricot pits (noyau) in milk or cream to give ice cream and pastry cream a bitter almond flavor.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Cyanide! Yikes! Thanks for the heads-up. There is something (to me) very satisfying about eating an entire apple (core, seeds, and stem). I don't suppose a few seeds every few days would amount to an overdose of cyanide, hopefully. Thanks...

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        that bitter almond flavor/smell is one of God's gifts to us!

        1. re: EWSflash

          The to be technical and fair, that bitter almond smell/taste isn't actually caused by the cyanide, but by another chemical called benzaldehyde. The seeds of stone fruits (cherry,apricot,almond etc) contain a substance called amygdalin. Whne this is digested by an enzyme called emulsin in the presence of water, it makes benzaldehyde, two molecules of glucose and a molecule of hydrocyanic acid (aka hydrogen cyanide) Incidentally this is also why bitter almonds are commerically grown in the first place, it's richer in amygdalin so that higher cyanide content also translates into a higher benzaldehyde content.

      2. I routinely swallow the seeds of grapes, watermelons, oranges, and even cherries, without ill effect. I can't even imagine how you would NOT swallow the seeds of pomegranates - do you mean to say that you nibble off the thin covering of pulp and spit out the seeds? WAY too much work.

        I don't eat the cores of apples, because I don't like that thin tough thing that the seed lies inside, but have occasionally every bit of a pear but the stem and the blossom end.

        I woudn't *chew* any of those seeds - they're often bitter - but as stated above I swallow them all the time. I tend to hold the philosophy that they're harmless and add roughage.

        I too had heard that apricot and peach pits have cyanide in them, although I've since learned that both are used in cooking so maybe not.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Allstonian

          Yup, I toss back a handful of pomegranite seeds and just crunch thru the jewel-beads of juice, then spit out the seeds (which is why I eat pomegranite privately :-). But I have noticed at finer dining establishments that often pomegranite jewels are scattered on a plate of salad or game, which I suppose means that one eats the entire seed...

          1. re: Allstonian

            They do have traces of cyanide in them, but also have medicinal properties. Apricot pit seeds are used for coughing and peach pit seeds are used for blood stagnation. I think you need to eat an awful lot of them to get sick as many herbal prescriptions call for up to grams of these seeds per day.

          2. I eat an apple whole -- seeds and stem included.

            Pomegranite seeds? I don't even bother worrying about -- much too much trouble to spit them out. Just chew and swallow.

            I used to eat watermelon seeds, but now the seedless varieties are so ubiquitous I don't even bother with the "regular" seeded kind. (Same goes for grapes - only buy the seedless varieties.)

            I don't eat apriocot, cherry, peach/nectarine, melon, papaya or mango seeds.

            18 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Melon and squash seeds are good toasted.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                You're so right. And pumpkin seeds as well.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  related question - for toasted/roasted seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, melon etc.) are you supposed to only eat the seed and discard the shell? or is it just a matter of preference? the shells are tasty when seasoned, and removing them is so much work.

                  1. re: auberginegal

                    I've known people who eat sunflower seed shells with no apparent ill effects.

                    Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are available shelled.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Regarding consumption of sunflower seed shells, I have a friend that would advise moderation.

                      **WARNING: This is nasty.**

                      She once sat down for a night of TV watching with a snack-size bag of sunflower seeds, which she ate, shell and all.

                      The next day she woke up with agonizing stomach cramps because she was, um, "backlogged". After a painful 30 minutes on the toilet she had to sit in the tub for a good hour to... I can't think of a polite way to describe her method, but I think you can figure it out.

                      P.S. "She" is not "me"--I swear!

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        i absolutely love roasted pumpkin seeds in the shell - i chew & swallow the whole thing. TJ's lightly salted version is my favorite. pumpkin seed shells are much more fragile & gentler than sunflower shells, which i always spit out. but the pumpkin shells should still be chewed thoroughly before swallowing - those sharp fragments could do some damage running through a sensitive system.

                      2. re: auberginegal

                        As kids, we'd regularly eat sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, shell and all.

                        1. re: auberginegal

                          I always eat pumpkin seed shells - started doing so as a kid when those salt-crusted "Indian pumpkin seeds" were among my favorite candy store items. Great roughage.

                          My wife, on the other hand, always shells pumpkin and sunflower seeds - I tease her that she expends more calories shelling them than she consumes eating them! Which, while not strictly true, she doesn't mind hearing at all.

                      3. re: ipsedixit

                        You should try papaya seeds... they make a really good salad dressing.

                        I can't imagine anyone managing to consume a mango seed without recourse to a wood chipper.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          RE: Papaya seeds ... Yeah, you're right. Find them often in Thai and Malay dishes.

                          RE: Mango seeds ... Either a wood chipper or a vice.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I've never seen a Papaya seed in a Malaysian dish (nor in a Thai dish, but I have never lived in Thailand and have lived in Malaysia). You mean someone is intentionally putting them in dishes? Some newfangled idea, perhaps?

                            1. re: Pan

                              Ripe Papaya seeds in dishes and salad dressings is nothing new fangled, they have a sort of peppery taste. I remember having them in salad dressings as far back as the late 70's. I have also had marinated skewered beef with a papaya seed sauce.

                              In Southeast Asia green papaya is used in salads and the immature seeds are too bitter to use and are discarded.

                              1. re: JMF

                                I've used many varieties of papaya seeds for quite some time. As JMF mentioned, they have a sort of peppery taste. What he didn't mention is they look almost like a peppercorn. My pepper mill is filled with dried papaya seeds and mixed in with peppercorns. Nothing goes to waste in my humble home.

                                Says so here: http://www.foodsubs.com/SpicePepper.html
                                ..................... click on 'Black Pepper'.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          Watermelon seeds actually have nutritional value---They are high in iron. I needed more iron in my diet about 11 years ago and I actually developed a fondness for them--they taste sort of "nutty."

                          1. re: dimples

                            I must say, "Thank you, dimples!" I myself wasn't sure if it was safe to consume watermelon seeds, and when I read what you had posted, my first thought was that you were a little "nutty" yourself. But, I realized that it couldn't hurt to try it. So, I went straight to my fridge, cut a piece of watermelon, and ate it, seeds and all (well, not the rind, of course). I must say again, "Thank you very much!" It is quite tasty, and now I don't have to worry about constantly spitting out the seeds!

                            1. re: Misty171

                              I've seen roasted watermelon seeds sold as snacks in Asian stores - particularly Japanese, IIRC.

                              1. re: babette feasts

                                roasted watermelon seeds are great, but when people eat them, they crack them open for the meat on the inside (which is why the varietals usually used for this have so much larger, dime-sized seeds than the seeds in watermelons commonly sold in the US). it's not unlike eating pepitas.

                        3. snopes.com says yes there's cyanide in apple seeds, but not enough to kill you.

                          http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/a...

                          I had heard of a man who liked apples seeds and saved up a cup of them to eat all at once, which of course killed him. I assumed it was an urban legend. It may be, but this story says a cup of apples seeds could kill you if they were crushed up (otherwise the outer coating would prevent them from being digested).

                          http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny...

                          1. Trust me, if there were enough cyanide in the seeds of one (or even 2) apples, I'd be dead a long time ago.

                            1. my 19 months old daughter eats whole apples & pears right off the tree!

                              1. I too read the snopes on apple seeds, but I also learned about Dr. Krebs, and his discovery of vitamin b-17 which is found in those seeds and in other seeds. Our American diets are too low in this vitamin but the Hunza tribe eats apricots seeds like crazy and live longer than most everyone else. The cyanide in those seeds is only released in the presence of cancer and only attacks the cancer; and the healthy cells in your body contain an enzyme that won't allow the cyanide out. But the cancer cells contains a huge amount of an enzyme that actually causes the cyanide to attack the cancer. check out Http://vitaminb17.org. You can actually prevent cancer by consuming foods of vitamin b-17 and I suggest you eat those seeds. This site lists many foods that contain the vitamin.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: soundprincess

                                  What this site advocates is laetrile-which has been shown to be a bunch of crap.

                                  1. re: soundprincess

                                    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20... well you are right about those Africans ingesting large amounts, just not about the results. Seems like the ones who can ingest and not die must have a strong body and thus live longer.

                                    "CONCLUSION: Cyanide poisoning associated with ingestion of apricot seeds is an important poison in children, many of whom require intensive care."

                                    1. re: benhadad

                                      No to mention that the apricot type eaten by the Hunza (assuming it is the same one sold as "Hunza apricots" in the health food stores, is a "sweet pit type", and apricot with seriosly LOWERED qunatities of cyanide in the pit, to roughly the same levels as in the sweet ( common edible) almond
                                      Oh and the Hunza live in Northern Pakistan so they are Asian not African. The Medical report must be referring to a different group.

                                  2. passion fruit is full of edible seeds. Delicious.

                                    1. From childhood, I never ate any fruit with seeds (much to my mother's dismay) because I had heard a seed could get lodged in one's appendix and cause appendicitis. So no strawberries, kiwi, etc. for me. When I was 20 I did have appendicitis (though clearly not caused by seeds), and began eating fruit with seeds. I love strawberries now.

                                      1. While I do enjoy some seeds, such as sesame, poppy, and those which you find in certain fruits and vegetables from time to time, I feel it is important to keep in mind how stressful it can be on one's digestive system to constantly process these stone-hard nuggets. With diverticulosis (inflammation of the intestine) becoming an increasingly common condition, I must admit I have become somewhat cautious since I have witnessed first-hand just how damaging seeds and nuts and the like can be when they get stuck in those intestinal pockets. Diverticulitis, an infection caused by these "lodged" items irritating the intestine, is serious, and sometimes leads to life-altering surgery and other complications. I truly don't want to bring down any of you seed-lovers out there, just thought someone should bring up this aspect of their edibility, as inquired by silence9.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                                          research show this to be an issue when there is not enough fiber and the pockets form. Seeds such as the papaya have a coating that is not as rough as some of the the other seeds. It would be nice to see more through research done on this aspect.

                                        2. I find the article in this link to be sensible and generally reassuring about eating apple seeds and such. But it does say, "Apricot pits and bitter almond, a completely separate food from commonly consumed sweet almonds, may cause significant illness or even death if chewed and swallowed, but these are not foods most people would find appetizing." The link:
                                          http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/...

                                          1. I've always eaten apples whole, end to end, and I'm still ali

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: John Manzo

                                                darn, we lost him in the middle of his last word... ;)

                                              2. I have been eating all sorts of seeds lately. I always eat pomegranate seeds, and I think it's odd if one spits them out.

                                                The seeds inside of the pits of nectarines and peaches are much like almonds if roasted, although more bitter. I have relatives here from abroad, and they gave me some. They were okay (not great).

                                                If you go to Middle Eastern markets, you will find that there are a lot of kinds of packaged dried seeds, used as snacks. :)

                                                1. I don't eat fruit seeds/pits because they tend to taste nasty (I HATE bitterness with a passion)... but they won't hurt you unless they're big enough to choke on or hard enough to break a tooth! You can eat your apple whole with a clean conscience...

                                                  1. I called poison control a little while ago after my daughter got into a large bag of loquats. The guy I talked to told me that she'd have to eat several thoroughly ground-up seeds to experience any problems. A whole seed, if swallowed, would pass through the gut without incident.

                                                    1. I have to ask: If you don't eat pomegranate seeds, what part of this fruit DO you eat?

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        I can only think of one way not to eat the seeds: put 'em in a blender, then run the resulting mush through a strainer, leaving you with the juice. Of course, there are probably teeny bits of seeds in the juice, but not too many if you use a fine enough mesh to strain it.

                                                        This is only worth doing if you have a *lot* of pomegranates. I made some juice last year with some fruit from a friend's tree, and as a result I now appreciate why pomegranate juice is so expensive in the store!

                                                        1. re: jlafler

                                                          Oh man. Brings back some bad memories. I was staying with my grandmother for a while, living with about 8-10 other people. I was responsible for making pomegranate juice for everybody in the household. I had to take apart a ton of pomegranates, run it through a blender (and they only had a Magic Bullet type of blender so I had to run several batches), strain the juice, then take the remaining seeds, put it in a cheesecloth and squeeze out the remaining juice. It was so much work but the juice tasted sooooo good -- much better than the Pom brand.

                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                            Yes, as with just about any fruit juice, fresh is infinitely better. And after the first dozen or so, you get really good at seeding pomegranates!!

                                                        2. re: pikawicca

                                                          I find it difficult to imagine doing, but I believe some people actually suck the good stuff off the itty-bitty seed inside and spit it out. The pips at the most provide a tiny crunch and a little bit of fiber.

                                                        3. I had a coworker who's family survived the holocaust. She always at the whole apple (except the stem).

                                                          1. I can't eat seeds or pits because of divertulitis, so if I eat anything that has seeds or pits , I have to remove them.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: LadyCook61

                                                              check again, not eating might be your problem
                                                              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19... just watch what type.
                                                              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18...

                                                              Notice two recent reports prove otherwise, you need to talk to your doctor make sure his research is up to date.

                                                            2. If you think of it, fruit is what plants make to entice animals and birds to distribute the plant's seeds around. Usually one of two things happens: 1) the seed is too hard to chew and/or too big to swallow, so the animal spits it out; or 2) the animal swallows the seed and it passes through the digestive tract unscathed. Thus, most seeds have relatively hard shells (to keep them intact during this process), and something inside (poison/bitter taste) to deter the animal from chewing up and thus destroying the seed. Looked at this way, it makes sense that swallowing seeds whole is relatively safe. Except for the whole diverticulitis issue, of course.

                                                              1. My grandfather told me not to - or the seed would sprout and vines would tangle out of my orifices.
                                                                Still gives me pause sometimes!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                                  My cousin used to point at pregnant women and tell me they swallowed watermelon seeds...

                                                                2. I am 47 years old......and I have eaten watermelon seeds, apple seeds, and the seeds of many other fruits. None have caused me any short term harm. Unknown if this has any effects long term. However I was taught this from my father whom is 81 years old right now and healthy......the Nectarine seed did not taste like bitter almonds but rather like a sharp cherry taste.... I firmly expect, baring an accident, I will awake tomorrow.

                                                                  Semper Fi.

                                                                  1. Wow, no mention of the seeds found in cactus pears?
                                                                    Seeds aplenty ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJpW_j...