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.

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.


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Valerio Farris

Written by: Valerio Farris

Former staff writer at Food52. Current anchovy eater.


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