I had a friend visit last week and we went for a walk in the garden. She noticed this plant:
“Oh, is that deadly nightshade?”
That’s what I’d always thought until I bought this excellent little book on edible weeds:
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.