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Nightshade Plants

Nightshade Plants
Do you know nightshade plants and vegetables have a defense mechanism which helps them to keep themselves safe from insects and other animals. Though they are poisonous, they have some nutritional values as well. Read this Gardenerdy article to get detailed information on this category of plants.
Niharika Arya
Human beings and animals have a tendency to protect themselves from many harmful things. This tendency can also be observed in many plant. One of them is nightshade plant. These plants have been named 'nightshade' because of their poisonous nature. As these plants were considered poisonous, previously they were not considered as edible plants, and were used only as ornamental trees and plants.
Many plants and vegetables are included in this category of plants. People know that tobacco is injurious to health, but you will be surprised to know that it belongs to the same family as tomatoes and potatoes, and they all are included in nightshade plants.
What are Nightshade Plants?
Nightshade plants belong to the family Solanaceae. Normally, these plants are 1 to 2 ½ feet tall and climbing nightshades are nearly 8 feet long. The leaves can be heart shaped or oval shaped, in an alternate pattern with only one leaf at each node. The flowers are usually white but, in case of climbing nightshade, they can have lavender or bluish flowers. The fruits of these plants can be dangerous, if consumed unripened. The fruits are usually green in color and turn into red or black or brown in color when they are completely ripe. These plants contain a high amount of alkaloids which are harmful for the body. This is a part of their defense mechanism to protect themselves from the attack of insects and animals.
Following is a list of nightshade vegetables and plants.
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers (expect black and white)
  • Eggplant
  • Tobacco
  • Petunias
  • Mandrake
  • Hot Peppers (Capsicum)
  • Wolfberries
  • Garden Huckleberry
  • Ground Cherries
Alkaloids found in different plants are known by different names, like, alkaloid in tobacco is known as nicotine, alkaloids in belladonna is hallucinogenic and deadly tropane and very light irritating alkaloids are found in tomatoes and potatoes.
Health Risks
Nightshade vegetables are dangerous because of their alkaloid content. High amount of alkaloids can be seen in their fruits as green spots. This you can very frequently observe in potatoes. The green spots should be removed from the edible product and should not be included in the diet. Alkaloid production is increased in nightshade plants when exposed to sunlight.
Following are some of the health risks which are associated with this plants.
  • It may show allergic reactions in some people. The common symptoms of allergy are diarrhea, dizziness, migraines, itching, swelling, nausea, inflammation and weakness.
  • Alkaloid content in nightshade plants may result in the excess loss of calcium from the bone, and excess deposition in the soft tissues. This may result in weakening of bones and joints, which in turn may cause arthritis.
  • Some deadly nightshade varieties may block the activities of enzymes which may hinder the functioning of the nervous system.
Tips to Avoid the Harmful Effects
Nightshades when taken in high amount may cause many harmful effects on the body, but this does not mean that you should eliminate them from the diet completely. This is because though they are harmful, yet they have some nutritional value. If a person is suffering from arthritis, then elimination of these plants will help in improving the condition. But for the people who do not have such health conditions, they can just follow the tips to avoid or minimize the health risks caused by nightshade plants.
  • Eat only the ripe fruit of these plants. Avoid eating the stem, leaves and flowers.
  • Clean or wash the fruit before using it, as this will help you to see if there are any green spots on them. If you observe such spots, just cut them off or do not use the fruit at all.
  • Do not keep the vegetables in the sunlight, as in light the alkaloid production increases.
  • Cook the vegetables properly before eating. It reduces the harmful chemicals to a great extend.
Nightshade plants are harmful, but they have many other nutritional values. You can just follow the above given tips to reduce the effects of its alkaloids and enjoy the goodness of its taste and health benefits.
eggplant in farm