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Sep 29, 2006 04:13 PM

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.

    5 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: silence9

        Be not afraid.

        I recently made some apricot preserves, and the French recipe called for placing a kernel into each of the jelly jars for a tinge of bitterness and almond flavor. I made most jars according to the recipe, but a few without the kernel, because I give a lot away and didn't want anyone to freak over the "cyanide".

        When I gave a Persian friend (an MD/PhD) a jar with a kernel inside, I asked if he'd prefer the plain. He laughed and said his family orders the roasted apricot kernels as snack food.

        1. re: kaleokahu

          When you roast apricot kernels, the cyanide chemically changes and is safe to eat. However, it is absolutely unsafe to eat raw apricot kernels. Anyone doubting that would do better to read this medical abstract than to rely on advice from non-experts:

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

            19 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:
                                ..................... 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.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            Hi, ipse: "I eat an apple whole -- seeds and stem included."

                            Shhhhhhhh.... Jr. might hear you and resuscitate the "Apple Asshole" thread.


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


                            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).


                            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.