Fruit

What You Need to Know About Eating Cherry Pits

August  3, 2017

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.

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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.

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Top Comment:
“True, but the sour cherry pits are roasted first, so the amgydalin is deactivated”
— Reg N.
Comment

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • jghodges
    jghodges
  • patricia gadsby
    patricia gadsby
  • Steve
    Steve
  • John
    John
  • Sonja Magnuson
    Sonja Magnuson
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

8 Comments

jghodges July 11, 2020
I just wonder if he already had cancer cells that the amygdalin immediately converted to fight off. We were created to consume fruits and veggies in raw form and whole from peel to (probably) the pit. God gave us these plants to neutralize these precancerous cells. But we’re so spoiled by the convenience of grocery stores that we throw away the nutrients to consume the things that have little to no nutrients but taste good.
A good friend went to Germany as a case study under the care of a physician who has made it his mission to prove that raising the body’s core temperature along with some other natural sources (probably these pits!) begins to minimize the size of cancer cells and actually eradicates precancerous cells. The good news is that they saw great and fairly quick progression in healing her body of cancer. Unfortunately she passed away due to an aneurysm on the brain from the strain of prolonged vomiting that she endured from her treatments in America.
So we western “geniuses” take fever reducing medication for every little thing and fill our body’s with processed food full of foreign agents to our organ’s. (This also includes all of the makeup, perfumes, lotions etc we put on the largest organ- our skin, which soaks into us.) If our body is so busy trying to rid itself of toxins from what we eat in just one meal without the aid of fever, it cannot possible also fight cancer off. Nor can it heal itself of our long list of autoimmune diseases.

So maybe these trace amounts of cyanide also elevate the core temp enough to keep these precancerous cells at bay.
Anyway, I just tried it from center of peach, plum and cherry pits. It does taste like a strong almond and cherry flavor. Amaretto- pretty good.
If I don’t write back, you’ll know not to try it.
 
patricia G. September 1, 2019
My grandmother tucked apricot-pit-nuts into her apricot jam for flavor and, phew, we lived tell the tale.
 
Steve August 5, 2018
My 1 year old ate maybe 20 cherry pits in a week.. No effect.
 
John August 3, 2017
No. I've eaten more than three cherry kernels before, and I almost always crack open my apricot and plum pits for the delicious nuts inside. Yeah, they contain substances that convert to cyanide during digestion, but generally not enough that eating a couple has any effect. With apricots and plums at least, eating as many kernels as you do fruit is generally a good rule as long as you're not binging super hard. Bitter almonds are used in cuisine and they're not always roasted before consumption (although it's a bad idea to eat too many). Clafoutis is traditionally made with whole cherries so as to get a little of that almondy flavor (although maybe the cooking has an impact on the amygdalin), and there are plenty of liqueurs that include stone fruit pits for the same reason. Consumed in moderation, this stuff is fine, and people panic more about it than necessary. Maybe the guy had some preexisting conditions that made him more susceptible or had a particular potent variety? Or maybe he ate more than three.
 
Happycherrypit July 30, 2018
yes I eat almond pits every day..3 of them to keep cancer free vitamin B14
 
Happycherrypit July 30, 2018
I mean Apricot pits. I eat apricot pits and they taste like almonds.
 
Sonja M. August 3, 2017
Wait. I thought that cherry pits were the basis of mahlab, a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. I'd always wanted to try cooking with it but now I"m terrified.
 
Reg N. August 3, 2017
True, but the sour cherry pits are roasted first, so the amgydalin is deactivated