Not as dangerous as you thought

I had a friend visit last week and we went for a walk in the garden. She noticed this plant:

nightshade 001

“Oh, is that deadly nightshade?”

That’s what I’d always thought until I bought this excellent little book on edible weeds:

monday 004

It’s not deadly nightshade but blackberry nightshade (Solanum nigrum). According to the authors, deadly nightshade isn’t naturalised in Australia.

Blackberry nightshade has edible berries, but ONLY when they’re black and so ripe that they fall off in your hand. The unripe, green berries DO contain toxins and are bitter. I’ve eaten the ripe berries (they’re delicious) and lived to tell the tale.

Blackberry nightshade is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced into Australia as a vegetable during the gold rush. The leaves and tender shoots are also edible, but solanine (the green potato toxin) may be present in varying amounts in the leaves and is not destroyed by cooking. Its bitter taste should be a warning not to eat.

From the book:

The fully ripened black berries have a rich flavour; sweet but with savoury hints of their cousin, the tomato. They can be mixed with other fruits as a dessert, provide a sweet-tangy element in a salad, and make a fabulous addition to chutney.

The plants we saw are in the conservation area of the property, so I’m going to wait for the berries to ripen, pick them, then pull the plants out. I’ll spread the berries in the food forest and hope they will naturalise there instead.

If you’re still worried about this plant here’s a really comprehensive post about it, bearing in mind that the site is American and different species grow there and if you’re STILL worried, just pull it out and do with it whatever you do with weeds.

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5 Responses to “Not as dangerous as you thought”

  1. narf77 Says:

    Here in Tassie we ONLY have blackberry nightshade, no deadly nightshade here. I would imagine if you cooked the berries that would reduce any toxins in them as well.

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  2. notsomethingelse Says:

    I also have the Weed Foragers Handbook and was surprised to read that the black berries of this plant are edible. You’re right they do have quite a pleasant taste. I regret the days when I used to pull these plants out like other weeds but now I have one growing in a pot on my deck. I didn’t plant it there so it must have been birds as I have seen rosellas eating these berries. Like your idea of naturalising it somewhere you don’t mind it growing.

    Another plant in the book that in earlier ignorance I used to pull out from the garden of a previous home is Purslane. What a waste in hindsight and I haven’t been able to find any locally. Perhaps it doesn’t like frosty winters.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Yes, purslane is a really good plant. It’s a hot weather plant so you won’t see it at the moment. Seeds germinate with summer rains then the plants die as the cold weather approaches. Some seed suppliers sell a cultivated variety called golden purslane.

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