I've been eating these tiny black berries regularly since I was a kid growing up on Bribie. My parents probably told me to only eat the black ones...I've only just found out why we don't eat the green ones!
Photos from Weed Foragers:
This is fruiting in my garden in early to mid autumn. Belongs to the genus Solanum so is a relative of tomato, eggplant, tamarillo, pepino and potato amongst others.
Often incorrectly referred to as Deadly Nightshade Atropa belladonna, a plant not naturalised in Australia.
Originally a Eurasian native, the Blackberry Nightshade was introduced into Australia during the goldrush era as a vegetable! Berries can be mixed with other fruit or used as a pie filling (if you can find enough of them that is).
Both the leaves and berries are edible but care should be taken only to eat the fully ripe black berries that fall into your hand when touched. The green berries can be toxic. There is also a caution that the plants growing in different locations can vary in their levels of toxins. Solanine (the green potato toxin) may be present in varying amounts in the leaves and is not destroyed by cooking.
I have never personally ever eaten the leaves.
An ointment can be made from the entire plant as a cold sore remedy. It has proven abillitiy to heal gastric ulcers, prevent elileptic seizures, relieve heartburn and work as an anti-inflammatory.
So useful! It certainly is an enthusiastic grower. An ancient cat of my acquaintance regularly munched on the berries. The toxin according to what I read, is cyanide. Whatever its name, best avoided ;-)
Maybe someone has gotten solanine and cyanide mixed up? If you come across anything mentioning the cyanide again perhaps you could post it here Elaine.
More than possible that someone is me ;-) If I find out more, I'll certainly post that.
Interesting. I had always been told this plant was the deadly nightshade - belladonna. I noticed my chooks are rather fond of the berries and didn't seem to be affected by it. The leaves sound a bit hit and miss though in terms of toxicity.
Apparently it's a common misconception Vanessa.
I had a chat Sunday with the gent, John Wrench, who has agreed to do a talk/field trip for us and he errs on the cautious side with all of these plants. He suggests we don't eat the leaves of this plant. Eating "weeds" is a touchy subject from the toxicity point of view - can vary from site to site, country to country, and no doubt person to person.
If in doubt don't eat it!
There's some which will be safe so long as not covered in spray or car exhaust, like Dandelion.
Foraging is fine - the guys on River Cottage have got it down to a fine art, camera crew trailing along as they 'discover' this and that. To be safe - once you've positively identified the plant as safe - gather only from your own yard or that of someone you know who doesn't spray. Any of the plants you really like, can be cultivated in a bed and picked at their very peak.
My girlfriend and I were just talking a few weeks ago about the possibility of eating these or not. She'd done some study into herbal medicines but was drawing a bit of a blank about the toxin levels in these. We both knew it was in the same family as belladonna and potatoes but still weren't sure on the safety of the berries. This post has helped clear this up for us. Thanks heaps! I love learning about all of this.
Oh, we're currently trying to locate some nettle to start growing in our garden (I love the tea) but can't seem to find any growing anywhere when foraging around the Brisbane area. Does anyone know of any growing around the Northside? Though we would be willing to travel for this awesome and most useful plant.
We'd love some feedback about the nettle Rachael. It's all new and fascinating to me.
Eating any "weeds" should always be done with care and your own research :)
Nettle is one of those must have's (in my opinion at least, may be a little biased there...). We use the leaves (dried) in a tea. It's meant to be an excellent blood cleanser very high in vitamins and minerals, boosts your circulation as well as giving you healthy (and faster growing) hair and nails. Along with all of that it also helps support the immune system. Great for when you have a cough as it helps loosen up congestion in the bronchials and has been said to help relieve acne and other skin conditions. It's also one of the few things you can still drink safely when pregnant, though it's recommended that you decrease the amount you drink when pregnant. Also meant to be good for anemic individuals.
You can also use the leaves in salads (Cooked, not really recommended raw). The sting tends to go away with cooking or crushing. If you're eating it raw it's recommended that you fold it in on itself a few times (the stinging part is the underside of the leaf) then chew thoroughly.
When picking the actual plant, wear gloves, and only pick the first 4 inches of new growth. Anything lower and older tends to have a heavy build up of silica crystals which have the potential to shred your kidneys. So there's a big warning.
So as you may be able to tell, this is one of my favorite 'weeds'. We get our tea supply from the West End green grocer at the moment but really want to find our own to grow.
Currently staying on a big property at Armstrong Creek and I have been rather surprised to see at least one of the roosters and a magpie obviously relishing the black fruit of this plant. The maggie goes to quite a bit of trouble to balance precariously to gain his bounty.
An elderly cat of my acquaintance adored the ripe fruit and gorged on them without any apparent ill-effects. Mostly animals unless starving, pick the safe fruit to eat so I figure it's probably safe for us too although cat and dog digestions are more able to handle dubious food than ours are.