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Summer fruits are the sumptuous stepsisters to winter’s hardened bounty. They are vibrant and syrupy, warm weather manifest. And if the recent anthropomorphic treatment of peaches (Kimojis, this video) is any indication, we’re approaching peak summer produce obsession.
This week, a British man took his summer fruit devotion to new heights, risking his life in the process of cherry consumption. Refusing to let nary a cherry go to waste, 28-year-old Matthew Créme of Blackpool, England, cracked open a cherry pit to find a nut in its center. Feeling curious (you know what they say about the cat!), he tasted said nut, liked it, and promptly ate two others. Soon, he found himself hospitalized.
In an interview with the BBC, Créme said that the pit “tasted similar to an almond but with a cherry flavour 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.” He began to feel nauseous, hot, sluggish. His family rushed him to the hospital where doctors prescribed him an antidote and delivered uneasy news: Créme had experienced cyanide poisoning.
What Créme, uninformed father of three, did not know is that pits of cherries contain amygdalin, a natural chemical compound that the body converts into cyanide.
Yet cherries and their pits are not the only hosts of this potentially fatal chemical. The centers of other stone fruits, like peaches, plums, and apricots—as well as apple seeds—also contain amygdalin. It's not actually the pit itself where amygdalin resides, but in the nut inside the pit.
But fear not, fruit fanatics. While amygdalin is only found inside the pits, the flesh of your favorite stone fruits will not turn to cyanide inside your body. As for apple seeds, Science Notes estimates one would have to eat the seeds of around 18 apples to experience cyanide poisoning. It's also important to note that heating or processing your seeds and pits deactivates the amygdalin and renders them safe to consume.
So, eat on! But feel free to forego the pit next time.