…from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? There’s a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie in your future. But first… some important information.
The people at Allrecipes always come up with very useful information. Here is something you should read carefully and abide by the warnings.
When we were kids, we were often warned not to eat certain things because "they're poisonous." Ever wondered if those warnings had any basis in fact, or if they were nothing but a combination of hand-me-down myths and an easy way for parents to scare the food out of children’s mouths? As it turns out, most of the things we were told were true. Though most will not cause death, they will often produce enough gastrointestinal distress that you might wish you were dead. Take heed—here are some of the most commonly cautioned food items that are, in fact, toxic to one degree or another.
When I was growing one of the major harbingers of spring was the appearance of rhubarb in the produce section of my local store. It just looked like harmless red celery to me, but I knew that a strawberry-rhubarb pie was soon to appear at my local Marie Calendar’s Pie Store. We were always forbidden from touching the rhubarb ourselves as the leaves were supposedly poisonous… absolutely true.
The rhubarb stalks are edible and perfectly safe for a berry pie, but rhubarb leaves are not something you want to consume. They contain a notable concentration of oxalic acid—which can not only produce very unpleasant gastro symptoms, but it also prevents the absorption of calcium, a nutrient we all need. Oxalic acid, though a natural compound found in a number of plants, is the active ingredient in the cleaning product Bar Keepers Friend, if that tells you anything. Having said that, you'd need to eat quite a few rhubarb leaves to do any major harm, but it really is safer just to avoid them altogether. It's also a good idea to make sure your pets do not have access to rhubarb plants.
Cherry Pits contain cyanide, and cyanide, is not anything you want to ingest. The good news is that the pit must be cracked open to be really dangerous, so if you were to accidentally swallow a whole one, you should be okay. But I'd still advise you to avoid swallowing one, and if you do find yourself in that position, play it safe and call your doctor.
Yes, Apple Seeds are on the "things you should not eat list." Once again, cyanide is the culprit here. But as with cherry pits, swallowing a few whole apple seeds should not cause any health problems. Seriously though, just don't make a habit of ingesting these nasty little back seeds.
Uncooked Kidney Beans
Now, it's hard to imagine a scenario where you would eat a dried, unsoaked, uncooked kidney bean, but still...don't. Kidney Beans contain a large amount of lectins. Similar to oxalic acid, lectins are often referred to as an "antinutrient." And lectins will produce a whole host of highly unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. It only takes a few to cause these symptoms, so soak your Kidney Beans and fully cook them before enjoying. It is also best not to use uncooked Kidney Beans in a slow cooker.
Don't panic… ripe, cooked Elderberries are just fine and add great healthy benefits to your diet. But the unripe berries, the leaves, and the bark contain both cyanide and lectins. The consequences of consuming any of the above are not good.
If you have an Elderberry tree in your backyard, be warned not to eat the tempting little fruit directly from the tree.
I always assumed eating Nutmeg was an urban myth where eating (or smoking) it could get you "high." I never tried that. My nutmeg consumption is basically limited to Christmastime. Turns out, it is possible, but you'd have to eat a whole lot of Nutmeg. Long before you felt that kind of effect, you would be very ill. There is an oil in Nutmeg, called myristicin, that's to blame. That said, a dusting on your eggnog, or a bit in your baked goods, is just fine.
Potatoes (Don’t panic, read on)
Sometimes older Potatoes or ones that have been exposed to too much light, will start to turn green. Glycoalkaloids (solanine) are the "bad guys" in this scenario, and they will yield incredibly unpleasant physical effects if consumed. If a Potato has the barest hint of green, and it's otherwise firm, unsprouted, unwrinkled, and smells like a potato, and if a pass or two with the vegetable peeler clearly removes any trace of green you can go ahead and use them. However, you should never, ever eat green Potato flesh, nor sprouts on a Potato, nor the area around the sprouts.
Don't worry, I am not going to tell you to forgo eating mangoes, one of the world's great pleasures. However, do be aware, they contain urushiol. The other common plant filled with urushiol is poison ivy. However, eating the delicious flesh of a mango is no problem; just avoid eating the skin, bark, and leaves. And for most people, managing the unpeeled fruit is not a problem while you peel it.
While not a food, many of us love to fill our homes with these beautiful bright red plants each December. Someone on the news will inevitably warn us that death is around the corner if we eat a leaf. Now, while it is true that ingesting a few leaves will give you an upset stomach, and that contact with the plant's milky sap can cause an itchy rash, the Poinsettia is not a murderer in Santa's clothing. Should you eat them? No. Should you try to avoid the sap if you break off a stem or a leaf? Yes. But if you happen to "mess up" on either front, I believe that you'll live through December. So feel free to decorate with abandon as long as you are careful about keeping the poinsettias out of reach for children or pets.
All of the above facts are certainly not intended to frighten anyone but having reliable information is never a bad thing, and I believe that these bits of information are worth knowing. If you know that you are severely allergic or susceptible to the dangerous compounds in any of these foods, you should completely avoid them.
ChefSecret: Here’s my recipe for a perfect Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 1 hour
Yield: 8 servings
For the pie crust
1 single pie crust your favorite pre-made recipe or store-bought
Egg wash for brushing on the pie edges 1 yolk + 1 tablespoon water
For the crumb topping
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted melted butter (1 stick)
For the pie filling
3 cups strawberries washed and sliced into large pieces
3 cups rhubarb washed and sliced into ½-inch slices
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar granulated
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Baking the pie crust
Quip of the Day: “I usually cut my pie into four pieces. I don’t think I could eat all eight.”
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To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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