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A brief genealogy of the Solanaceae family
The Solanaceae family is a family of flowering plants that includes many edible species and others considered poisonous. The Ca family is also known as the potato family or the nightshade family. The word Solanaceae comes from the genus Solanum, “shade-loving plants”, a large and diverse genus of flowering plants in the Ca family. The genus Solanum has 3 important plants familiar to humans: potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants.
It is not clear where the name “shade-loving” comes from, but it may be related to the dark and mysterious past of the plants in this family of plants.
The Ca family has 98 genera and about 2,700 species that are diverse in habitat, shape and ecology. Many member plants of the Ca family contain toxic glyco-alkaloids, especially very poisonous species such as deadly nightshade (also known as deadly nightshade, atropa belladona). The leaves and stems of the white primrose are poisonous.
However, there are still a few shade-loving species that are used for food. These are some of the nutritious fruits and vegetables that have been staple foods of many cultures for hundreds of years, such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tobacco, and tomatillo tomatoes (also known as tomatoes). green or Mexican tomatoes).
Some popular vegetables are plants of the Ca family (Photo: DrJockers)
Some other species in the Ca family can be mentioned such as: Datura (Jimsonweed) and mandrake (mandrake, also known as magic eggplant) – two poisonous plants that were used as pain relievers in the past, chili peppers. paprika, chili pepper) and petunia.
Many herbs and spices are also derived from the Cacao family, such as cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, and paprika.
Black and white pepper is derived from peppercorns (peppercorns) that are not part of the shade-loving family.
In addition, a number of other popular condiments and foods use shade-loving vegetables as ingredients such as chili sauce, ketchup, marinara sauce, and salsa sauce.
Botanically, many shade-loving plants that we consider vegetables are classified by scientists as fruits, such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
How toxic is solanine?
Solanine is one of the glyco-alkaloid compounds found in shade-loving plants. Solanine is bitter and toxic, which is the main poison produced by potatoes when exposed to light; solanine is the defense mechanism of potatoes against insects, bacteria, fungi, and hungry animals. In addition to potatoes, solanine is also found in a number of shade-loving plants such as angelica (Hyoscyamus niger L.), tobacco (Nicotiana spp.), food plants such as eggplant, tomato.
Although shade-loving plants can be fatal if ingested, many fruits and vegetables in this same botanical category (available at the grocery store) are actually safe to eat. That’s because the toxin content of solanine drops to non-toxic levels as fruits and vegetables ripen.
However, most leaves or stems of plants in the Ca family are poisonous, including the food plants mentioned in this article such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers… so you should not eat them. these parts if you do not know the use or how to process them properly.
The exception is chili leaves – the leaves of the chili plant are often used by Vietnamese people to make soup. Chili leaves are a medicine in traditional medicine, a vegetable rich in nutrients after being cooked.
Solanine is a neurotoxin, the absorption of solanine in humans will cause nausea, headaches, serious neurological problems and even death in humans if consumed in sufficient doses.
According to Healthline, solanine works by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters. This compound also damages cell membranes and can have a negative effect on the intestinal permeability.
How much solanine is too much?
Human testing for solanine is immoral, so it’s hard to say exactly how much solanine will make you sick. This also depends on the stamina and body size of each person.
Toxicological studies and reports of solanine poisoning will give us the information we need.
According to a 2004 study cited by Healthline, intake of solanine at 2 mg/kg body weight is enough to produce symptoms of poisoning, and 1.25 mg/kg is enough to cause pain in some people. This means that a person weighing 50kg will get sick if they eat 450g of potatoes containing 20mg of solanine/100g of potatoes.
If people who are lighter eaters are overweight or are small children, or potatoes accumulate very high levels of solanine, consuming less potatoes can also make them sick.
According to another 2006 study, toxic symptoms can occur with solanine intake at doses of 2-5 mg/kg body weight, and death at doses of 3-6 mg/kg body weight.
Symptoms usually appear 8-12 hours after absorption but can be as rapid as within 10 minutes after eating foods high in solanine. Signs of solanine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, headache, and stomach pain. These relatively mild symptoms should go away in about 24 hours.
There are still serious cases with severe consequences such as paralysis, convulsions, difficulty breathing, coma and even death.
Solanine in potatoes
Potatoes are the most important crop on the global menu coming from the Ca family. Potato is one of the largest food crops in the world in terms of fresh production according to many years of statistics of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). World potato production in 2019 was 370 million tons, ranking fourth after corn, wheat and rice.
The potato plant contains several toxic glyco-alkaloid compounds, most notably solanine and chaconine. Solanine in potatoes helps potatoes defend themselves against insect invasion; Leaves, flowers, sprouts, and green potatoes and tubers all have solanine. According to research, the content of glyco-alkaloid toxins in potatoes is highest in flowers, potato sprouts, lowest in the flesh of the tubers that we often eat (potato is actually the stem, not the fruit of the potato. west).
Potatoes have turned green.
It is often recommended to keep potatoes in a cool and dark place, away from light because when exposed to light or high temperature, potatoes will quickly germinate or turn green due to the presence of a lot of chlorophyll.
When exposed to light, levels of toxins solanine and chlorophyll – substances that turn potatoes green will increase. Chlorophyll is harmless and is the compound responsible for the green color of many plants, but it is also a sign of the presence of the toxin solanine because the two substances are formed at the same time and at the same rate in potatoes.
Solanine in potatoes will not be destroyed when potatoes are cooked. Therefore, if we see potatoes sprouting or turning green, we need to cut off the sprouts, eyes, blue parts, and bruises before processing because those are the places where the most solanine is concentrated.
According to Healthline, peeling potatoes and frying them also help reduce toxins.
However, it is not clear whether these approaches can fully and consistently protect us from glyco-alkaloid toxicity. Therefore, the National Capital Poison Center (NCPC, a non-profit organization on poisoning prevention) recommends that we best throw away potatoes when they have sprouted.
Concentrations of glyco-alkaloids in wild-grown potatoes are sufficient to cause poisoning in humans, but poisoning from cultivated potatoes is rare. When breeding commercial potato varieties, breeders will remove toxic plants and keep glyco-alkaloid levels below 200 mg/kg. When the potatoes turn green, the solanine content in them can reach 1,000 mg/kg. Solanine in normal potatoes is so low that it accounts for only 3.5% of the maximum toxin ratio above, in the range of 7-187 mg/kg. The glyco-alkaloid content in the flesh of a normal potato is 12–20 mg/kg, while the glyco-alkaloid content in the green potato flesh is 250–280 mg/kg and its skin is 1,500-2,200 mg/kg.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Poisonous Plants Database, the maximum acceptable amount of glyco-alkaloid is 20-25 mg/100g fresh potatoes. According to current FDA regulations, 20 mg of solanine per 100g of potato (a small potato), which means 200 mg/kg of potato can make the potato inedible.
Refer to Healthline, Wikipedia
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