A man from Lancashire, England, thought nothing of cracking open three cherry pits and consuming the substance inside. If he hadn’t checked out his symptoms online 20 minutes later — extreme fatigue and a splitting headache — he might’ve died from cyanide poisoning.
According to Matthew Crème, the innards of the cherry pits he was eating “tasted similar to an almond, but with a cherry flavor to it — I didn’t think nothing of it, just thought it was a seed, so I ate it and continued to eat more of it.”
Thankfully, he called emergency services and received the antidote before it was too late, but he believes that labels should be placed on fruit packaging to remind people that certain seeds and pits are not meant to be eaten.
You see, the pits and seeds of cherries, apples, apricots, peaches, and black plums all contain a natural plant compound called amygdalin that turns into cyanide after it has been eaten. Green plum pits contain the highest concentration of amygdalin, but as long as you don’t crack open a seed or pit, it should pass through your digestive system without any of the cyanide leaching from the kernel. Some fruit seeds contain more amygdalin than others; it would take crunching the seeds from 18 apples to get a deadly dose, but ingesting only two or three cherry pits can be lethal.
Don’t worry too much about poisonous pits though! As long as you don’t eat stone fruits like a starved bear, the vitamins, fiber, and minerals to be gained from eating cherries, peaches, and plums far outweigh the risk of cyanide poisoning.