Are Green Tomatoes Poisonous?

Solanine, an alkaloid toxin found in green tomatoes, makes them poisonous.

The film “Fried Green Tomatoes,” directed by Jon Avnet in 1991, presents fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, and some areas of Europe make pickled green tomatoes and jam out of green tomatoes. How does that relate to this piece of information? Does it matter if they are poisonous or not?

Green tomatoes contain poison, and eating them can result in adverse effects.

What Is the Poisonous Level of Green Tomatoes?

The alkaloid is only present in the green parts of unripe tomatoes, so they do not pose a poisoning risk.

Diarrhea, drowsiness, and heavy breathing are symptoms of poisoning. Solanine poisoning only occurs when an adult consumes about 200 milligrams of it. When consumed in large quantities, it may cause nerve damage, cramps, and paralysis. Lethal doses are around 400 milligrams.

To experience poisoning at those levels, it would take over 600 grams of raw, unripe tomatoes, since green tomatoes contain 9 to 32 milligrams per 100 grams. It is very unlikely that anyone would consume solanine because of its bitter taste.

A 100 gram serving of green tomatoes contains no more than 2 milligrams of solanine. Unripe tomatoes would have to weigh at least 10 kilograms to make this dangerous concentration.

In addition, solanine is resistant to heat breakdown, which means that products made from green tomatoes that are cooked or pickled still contain around 90% of the original solanine content.

To reach the level of noticeable poisoning with tomatoes at full ripeness, you would need to consume approximately 29 kilos of raw tomatoes in order to reach 0.7 milligrams per 100 grams of solanine.

Semi-ripe tomatoes are unlikely to poison you accidentally due to their bitter flavor and low solanine concentration. Some regions pickle and ferment green tomatoes, and jams are made from them. Due to the heat resistance of solanine as well as the bitter taste covered by sugar, vinegar, and spices, it is recommended that these products be used in moderation.

What Is Solanine

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Alkaloids include solanine. Several thousand active substances are also found in this group of chemicals, which is used by plants as a means of defense. For example, the autumn timeless contains colchicine, which is lethal at small doses, and walnuts contain strychnine. In addition to capsaicin, or the morphine of the sleep monkey, these alkaloids also contain capsaicin, which gives chili peppers and hot peppers their spicy flavor.

Medicine uses substances from several of these elements at very low doses, sometimes as small as a few milligrams. In most cases, the substances become harmful if they are consumed in large quantities or in the parts of the plant that contain them.

Solanine Is A Protection Mechanism Of Immature Fruit Plants

Fruit-bearing plants take special precautions to protect themselves against plant predators in the animal kingdom. Camouflage and chemical cocktails are the tomato’s secret weapons. Among the leaves of the plant, unripe fruits are hard to spot since they are green. The fruit turns red or yellow only when it is ripened enough to propagate the plants in the sun. Green immature tomatoes contain a toxic alkaloid called solanine that is bitter to animals and prevents them from eating them.


I’ve been around farming all of my life. Farmers Life Blog is a way I can share my passion for all things farming and gardening and hopefully share some of my knowledge and experience through the process. Shootin' the breeze doesn't have to be confined to the front porch anymore, now there's a whole world to share my deep and abiding love with.

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