For those who hate eating their vegetables, it’s easy to imagine that they’re actually toxic plants masquerading as food. But, as Ars has reported before, many of the common vegetables, fruits, spices, and other plant matter that we shovel in do in fact contain toxins—albeit at minor, generally harmless amounts.
This includes veggies in the Cucurbitaceae family also called cucurbits or gourds (see gallery of family members below), which contain a class of poisons called cucurbitacins. The toxic steroids are among the most bitter-tasting compounds biochemists have ever come across and, in the plants, they function as a defense against herbivores. Most domesticated varieties of gourds have had high levels of cucurbitacins bred out of them. But stressful growing conditions, such as droughts or high temperatures, can cause plants to boost production. Also, accidental cross-pollination with wild, bitter varieties can up toxin levels.
Source: FS – All – Science – News
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