Yew

CaptMichaNovember 25, 2003

Are yew berries poisonous? I know the seed is, but is the fruit okay?

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seraphima(z4 AK)

I remember my mother telling me that yew berries were used for making liquor- gin? not sure. That is the only ingestible (if one considers liquor ingestible and not a poison!) use that I know of.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2003 at 11:18PM
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lucky_p

I wouldn't eat them. Can't comment on the berries for sure, but the leaves/stems contain toxic amounts of cyanide-releasing compounds and yew alkaloids, such as taxime, taxol, etc.

Gin is made from juniper berries.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2003 at 8:05PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

An ex soldier whom I know told me that they were taught in survival classes that they could eat yew berry flesh but MUST NOT eat the seed. Personally it's not something I will be trying. As Lucky said, it's juniper berries that go into gin. They are perfectly edible and are also used in cooking, especially game dishes.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2003 at 10:55AM
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lostman(z7a/b GA)

The book: Plants for a future", by Ken Fern states:

"All parts of this plant, except the fully ripe fruit, are highly poisonous, but this fruit is completely toxin free. It is sweet and toxin free. The texture is somewhat gelatinous however, which puts a number of people off. Should you accidentally swallow the seed, whilst eating the flesh there is no cause for concern because it will pass through without being digested. Indeed will germinate better for its experience. DonÂt chew the bitter seed though, as this would release the toxins."

You might do some other reserch to be sure though.

Check out www.pfaf.org to see if there is any other info on it

    Bookmark   December 16, 2003 at 5:11PM
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msminnamouse(Maryland)

Thanks for all your help!
Is there a class or course that I could take that would teach me what I can eat and what I can't? I don't trust myself to identify them correctly should the need ever arise to eat berries because I'm starving.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2003 at 11:59PM
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lostman(z7a/b GA)

Maybe you local Botanical Gardens may have a class on wild edibles, though they only cover herbaceous natives.

If you really want to focus on this may just check out a few books on the topic. There seems to be a number of them out there. I dont know enough about the topic to really suggest a good one. The one I mentioned "Plants fo a Future" is one that is more focused on the UK, but is a good read all the same. You may wish to get a copy of "Cornicopia" by Stephen Facciola. This thick book list most the known edible plants, fungi and bacteria in the world. I would think it is a "must" for all edible plant explorers. Its just fun to look stuff up in the book as a reference.

Anyone else have any advice?

Rob

    Bookmark   December 17, 2003 at 10:48AM
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poppa(z5 MA)

I have seen squirrels eating the berries. Wasn't sure if they were eating the flesh or seed, but the fact that they did must mean it's edible..

    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 12:15PM
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carol_the_dabbler(Z5/6 Indiana)

There's also sloe gin, which is flavored with the fruit of a species of wild plum (not otherwise considered very palatable).

As for edibles books, I'd also recommend "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places" by Steve "Wildman" Brill. It covers both wild edibles and cultivated plants that are not generally grown for their edibility.

Brill's information on yews is generally similar to Facciola's (quoted above), except that he does *not* say anything about the seeds passing harmlessly through one's digestive tract. Since the poison in yews is the sort that will stop one's heart from beating, the difference between a negligible amount and a fatal dose may be very small (just a guess). If you'd like to try the berries (and according to Brill, all species of yew have tasty, edible berries -- and deadly everything else), you'd be well advised to pit them first. Better a little extra work than proving Facciola wrong the hard way!

And please don't eat something just because you've seen members of other species eating it. Aspirin and chocolate can kill dogs and cats. And some birds just love poison-ivy berries (which explains how the vines pop up at great distances from any others -- the seeds flew there!).

    Bookmark   January 10, 2004 at 11:41PM
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lostman(z7a/b GA)

Thanx Carol,

You speak with a lot of wisdom.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 8:49AM
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china1940(Z5 MO)

I have a beautiful yew hedge (abt 24 ft. long) on the west side of my house (MO - zone 5) I have an old home, high foundation. they are about 3 foot high (Mature) .It is lush and dark green and the branches are pretty much covered even in the inside with needles which is what I like. However, do to some construction, I am going to have to have them removed and afterwords, I want to plant yews on the west side of the new construction etc. But my problem is, I don't remember the name of these yews, that I have had for about 10 years.

My Aunt down the street has mature yews too, and I don't like hers. Her's just seem to have the needles on the outside and top and bare branches in side. I know I purchased mine cheaper, like at Walmart, KMart etc. Does anyone have any ideas?

I thought about taking cuttings, but I don't think I would live to see my hedge regrown, by doing cuttings. Thank you,

    Bookmark   April 6, 2004 at 2:27AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I don't know what yew you have but if it's Taxus baccata it will take a lot of rough treatnment. You could dig it up and move it without problems I would think. They can be cut back very severely and sprout again. Three feet is not tall for a Taxus baccata hedge and should be movable although it would be quite hard work.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2004 at 7:25AM
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opabinia51(SW Canada)

YES YEW BERRIES ARE TOXIC. Best not to eat them

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 10:18PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

I've seen yew berries in California and ate a couple. No they're not toxic, see PFAF mentioned above. They are pleasant enough in taste, but not what I would consider delicious. I don't know that I would eat many or grow them for fruit, though. I know sometimes horses get fatally poisoned by eating yew leaves or having them mixed in with their hay.

Some species of yew are medicinal, like the Pacific Yew, Taxus brevifolia, source of the anti-cancer drug Taxol. Since they are toxic, medicinal use would be extremely hazardous without knowledge.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 4:12PM
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ltalent(z5-6)

Both British and Japanese yews are poisonous but to varying degrees. According to the poison control center the Japanese yew is poisonous top to bottom except for the fleshy part of the seed. Even dead clippings are poisonous, strong enough that one cup can kill a horse. The seed itself is poisonous only if broken open. The Japanese yew berry contains an irritant that can create GI problems in adults and children. They advised children be warned not to eat them.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 1:25PM
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mike_ewok

I am an conservation/ ecology officer and spend a good deal of my time outdoors eating a number of things I probably shouldn't! I ate some yew berries today (2nd December 2006), and have eaten them before.

BUT DON'T EAT THE SEEDS

I recommend Richard Mabey "Food for Free: A guide to the edible wild plants of Britain" for safe, outdoor eating!

Probably a bit late for the original posting!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 1:40PM
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george_23

There is a yew tree from Chili (prumnopitys andina) that gets to about 20 feet tall that has edible fruit that taste like grapes. It referred to as a plum fruited yew. It can be grown in zone 7 and warmer climates. It requires male and female trees to produce fruit. They say you can eat the seeds as well. I don't believe the Japanese and American yews are good. The seeds in those are toxic as far as I know. There are none of them around me to have first hand knowledge of.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 10:29PM
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allenwrench

Would be interested in hearing from these members (if still round) as to what fuels your interest in foraging?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 8:19AM
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runningwithsteff_hotmail_com

NOT poisonous! I've always eaten these berries. They are totally delicious! I just suck the berry off the seed and spit the seed out. I've never accidentally chewed or swallowed a seed but even if it happens, ONE seed will not be enough to do harm. After all, a cup of APPLE seeds contains enough cyanide to kill a fully grown human...

Enjoy!

As someone else posted before:

"All parts of this plant, except the fully ripe fruit, are highly poisonous, but this fruit is completely toxin free. It is sweet and toxin free. The texture is somewhat gelatinous however, which puts a number of people off. Should you accidentally swallow the seed, whilst eating the flesh there is no cause for concern because it will pass through without being digested. Indeed will germinate better for its experience. Don�t chew the bitter seed though, as this would release the toxins."

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 5:28PM
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Jagoda1234

I eat yew fruit (aril) all the time and I am still OK :) I find them sweet and nice flavored but it has a somewhat unpleassant texture to me - like a bit slimy - i wonder if one could make a jam out of th fruits...Anyone knows of any recipe?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 3:10AM
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jolj(7b/8a)

lostman, I do not know the book you quote from.
But it is common for the "RIPE" fruit to be nonpoisonous when the whole plant is poisonous.
EXAMPLE: NightShade plants are poisonous, but we all eat the fruit from these plants(tomatoes,egg plant,white potatoes, all pepper, sweet & hot).
I use Peter's guide, but it is on loan at this time.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2011 at 12:52AM
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mike127(4/5)

so i've read alot about the yew berries and know that the flesh around the seed is ok to eat but why couldn't i eat holly berries cause they are very sweet too and barberries taste like bitter apples some times holly berries do too

for others you should read up about these other berries before any of you try them.

i never got sick from eating these other berries and pair-apples are really bitter so i wont try those again

yew berries taste better once you let the fleshy part sit and shrivel up like a raisin there sweeter that way.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 3:06AM
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shadeyplace(7)

If the yew shrub itself is toxic then why aren't all my deer dead as door nails?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 7:21AM
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comtessedelacouche (10b S.Australia: hotdryMedclimate)

Because yew is not toxic to deer.

    Bookmark   last Monday at 11:05PM
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