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Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum

Posted by hersh67 z9 Smthvlle TX (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 3, 04 at 14:22

Do any of you use Solanum nigrum, or Black Nightshade for pies, jellys etc.? My Dad always grew a similar cultivore, Burbank Wonderberries, (also called Garden Huckleberries) and my mom made wonderful pies, using apples with them to modify the bite that these berries have. We also had lots of wild Solanum nigrum around, but everyone called it "Poison Nightshade". I found an article in the early 1950's in Nature Magazine (the one for kids in this country, not the English one) that praised Black Nightshade berries for pie. I knew that the berries must be totally ripe or the residual Solanine will make you nauseated and dizzy, so I showed my 3 year old daughter (who is a consumate grazer and berry picker) how to be careful and eat only the very black ones. She picked about a pint (most of my wild crop) and ate them raw and was uaffected, so I guess ours are OK. I was discussing Black Nightshade with the widow of my college biology prof and she mentioned that people in Iowa considered them to be poisonous, but her mother in Colorado made a jelly using the berries, lemon juice and lemon slices, sugar and pectin, and her mother had a hard time getting enough berries because the kids ate too many while they were picking them.
Anyone else have any experience with this fruit?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum

I've grown the 'garden huckleberries' offered in many of the gardening catalogs - usually S.melanocerasum. Heavy producers of big, pretty blue-black berries, but even after boiling, leaching, and flavoring with lots of sugar, grape juice & lemon juice(they've got no flavor of their own), the end product still had this odd metallic aftertaste that left me a bit uneasy about consuming any more. Don't think I'd be inclined to eat S.nigrum if there was anything else available.
Supposedly, however, there are some Solanum species - S.burbankii, if I recall correctly, that are edible and tasty, right off the plant.

RE: Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum

I grew S. burbanki last year on purpose because of various discussions on garden web. I tried numerous times to eat the berries fresh and thought they were awfull with that strange aftertaste. I can't see anyone making a great tasting pie from the berries. This year I had the plants also because they self seeded and I had them pop up in all sorts of strange places around the yard as well as the area they grew in last year. I did not sample them again.

I haven't grown any of the other garden Huckleberries so have no other type to compair them too but these are supposed to be the best tasting. The plants do produce very heavily.

I have found that birds do love to eat the berries and my Catbirds and Mockingbirds snacked on the berries all season long both years.

RE: Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum

  • Posted by hersh67 z9 Smthvlle TX (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 12, 04 at 19:44

The plants of the cultivore do make an attractive background with their umble like display of black berries, but it is the fruit that I dearly love. Possibly it is because I grew up with them, and my mother always blanched them in baking soda water before making pies. They impart a beautiful purple color to pies also. They have a bite, sort of like that in pineapple that makes them stand out, but I don't care for them raw off the bush. My daughter eats the wild ones that are sweeter. The cultivores won't grow well in the Texas heat and stink bug onslaught we have every spring. The flavor (and the bite) the tame ones give to apple pie is wonderful. Try using more apple and less wonderberry, and use the baking soda blanch. I have never noticed any difference in the plants, whether they are called Garden Huckleberry or Burbank Wonderberry. I think they may be a tetraploid of the wild Solanum nigrum.

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