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_john

Tomato leaves

30 posts in this topic

I sometimes use tomato leaves as an herb for their wonderful savory smell. Does anyone else use them in their cooking or know of any recipes? I know that the tomato plant is in the nightshade family and the leaves and stems contain alkaloids that toxic to humans and animals*.

Here is what the Curious Cook has to say about them in the New York Times.

*Use common sense please, "at least one death has been attributed to tomato leaf tea". I am not recommending their consumption.


Edited by _john (log)

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Well, if Harold McGee thinks it's OK I'm prepared to believe him!

I haven't used the leaves - I'd try it, but our tomato season is nearly over - but I did pick up a few years ago the trick of leaving the tomato stalks in the pot when making a sauce. It really does give an extra flavour punch.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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I believe Paul Bertolli in Cooking by Hand suggests using tomato leaves in sauce to perk up that fresh tomato flavor. They do have an incredible smell

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There are different varieties of tomatoes and the leaves are distinctly different.

Those closest to the nightshade ancestor can be quite harmful, some hybrids have less of the atropine alkaloids.

The "potato leaf" varieties contain more of the tropane alkaloids and tomatine than the rugose or compound leaf varieties and consumption of the leaves of the former can definetly cause illness.

Symptoms are the same as ingestion of other nightshade plants, dizziness, blurry vision (dilation of the pupils), nausea, tachycardia, dry mouth and confusion.

Quantity is a crucial point. One or two tomato leaves might be okay but more could be problematic.

I lost a great dane puppy that chewed on a tomato plant and ate some of the stems and small green tomatoes so the stems and leaves are certainly toxic. The puppy was 5 months old and weighed 60 pounds.

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

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There are different varieties of tomatoes and the leaves are distinctly different.

Those closest to the nightshade ancestor can be quite harmful, some hybrids have less of the atropine alkaloids.

The "potato leaf" varieties contain more of the tropane alkaloids and tomatine than the rugose or compound leaf varieties and consumption of the leaves of the former can definetly cause illness.

Interesting: I hadn't realized there was this kind of variation in tomato varieties, though it certainly makes sense now that I think about it. Do you know of any sources for identifying which varieties are which?

I lost a great dane puppy that chewed on a tomato plant and ate some of the stems and small green tomatoes so the stems and leaves are certainly toxic. The puppy was 5 months old and weighed 60 pounds.

I'm sorry to hear about your loss, but I would caution against drawing conclusions about the toxicity of products in humans based on their toxicity in dogs. After all, raisins and chocolate are reputed to be toxic in dogs, aren't they?


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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There definitely are poisons in the leaves. Whether they are enough to hurt you depends on dosage. Dosage depends on how much is in the leaf, how efficiently cooking extracts it and how big the person is. Lots of variables.

My bet would be that the biggest variable would be how much is in the leaf. If its like other plant chemicals, the poisons would vary between plant strains and with the season...perhaps a lot.

There are reasons that doctors don't give patients digitalis leaf to chew on anymore. It was way too variable a dosage. Bad things happened.

RE Harold McGhee saying its OK...I would hope that he has data to back it up.

RE Animals being different from people. Quite true. Lots of examples. But this family of poisons/drugs are quite active in people so the potential is there,

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So has anyone done anymore experimenting with Tomato Leaves?


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Heston Blumenthal suggests that when making a tomato sauce, you should buy tomatoes on the vine and then add the vine to the sauce while simmering. He claims that the smell we associate with tomato plants (in a garden or greenhouse) comes primarily from the vine rather than the fruit, hence his suggestion. He doesn't mention leaves, however.

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Sounds like one of those famous-chef-assertions that want testing.

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Yeah, because Blumenthal is known to just make things up.

 

Snark aside, you can use your nose to test this out. It's pretty obvious when you smell a tomato versus smelling the plant/vine itself.


Edited by btbyrd (log)

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Heston Blumenthal suggests that when making a tomato sauce, you should buy tomatoes on the vine and then add the vine to the sauce while simmering. He claims that the smell we associate with tomato plants (in a garden or greenhouse) comes primarily from the vine rather than the fruit, hence his suggestion. He doesn't mention leaves, however.

Was it Heston? My memory says Jamie Oliver. But whoever it was, leaving some of the stems in does somewhat enhance the tomatoiness (I think I'll trademark that word). I've done it several times, in things like pasta sauces.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

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Was it Heston? My memory says Jamie Oliver. But whoever it was, leaving some of the stems in does somewhat enhance the tomatoiness (I think I'll trademark that word). I've done it several times, in things like pasta sauces.

It was Heston:


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I brought up the subject of tomato leaves in cooking (Paul Bertolli mentioned it in his book back in 2003) a few years ago in a forum and the control-freak fearmongers went berserk and shut down the thread. Unreal!!!!!  :rolleyes:

http://www.tomatoville.com/showthread.php?t=19476

 

Again, Harold McGee's article on tomato leaf toxicity.......

Accused, Yes, but Probably Not a Killer
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/dining/29curi.html


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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Not a defense of control freakism but ...

 

Problem is "The absence of proof is not proof of absence".

 

Tomatoes, like any other veg, will vary in the production of stuff with their growth conditions and their strain. Look at the variation in sweetness among strains. Could well be the same with solanine.

 

There are lots of vets who have seen animals die from eating tomato plants.

 

Solanine isn't exactly the worst poison in the world. The dose that kills 50% mice is a hefty 42mg/kg... And I've eaten greened potatoes forever and am still vertical (but who knows how my liver is?). But I'm 225 lbs (big bones) and pretty healthy and it would take a lot to drop me. But what if I were a 40 lb kid...?

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Where's the definitive evidence that cooked tomato leaves or stems are a serious risk?


~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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Where's the definitive evidence that cooked tomato leaves or stems are a serious risk?

 

Would that be a leftover thinking from long long time ago that tomatoes were thought to be poisonous?

 

dcarch

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Yup...16th century thinking.....LOL


~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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Like I said...absence of proof is not proof of absence.

 

There are clear reports of animal toxicity from eating raw leaves.

 

There are no reports (that I know of) of the safety of cooked tomato leaves. Mcgee was not very rigorous in that article.

 

I think it is probably safe to eat cooked tomato leaves. But I don't know that to be so.

 

Its one thing to say you doubt that its dangerous...its completely  different to assert that its safe in the absence of facts.

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There are different varieties of tomatoes and the leaves are distinctly different.

Those closest to the nightshade ancestor can be quite harmful, some hybrids have less of the atropine alkaloids.

The "potato leaf" varieties contain more of the tropane alkaloids and tomatine than the rugose or compound leaf varieties and consumption of the leaves of the former can definetly cause illness.

Symptoms are the same as ingestion of other nightshade plants, dizziness, blurry vision (dilation of the pupils), nausea, tachycardia, dry mouth and confusion.

Quantity is a crucial point. One or two tomato leaves might be okay but more could be problematic.

I lost a great dane puppy that chewed on a tomato plant and ate some of the stems and small green tomatoes so the stems and leaves are certainly toxic. The puppy was 5 months old and weighed 60 pounds.

 

Andy, this is a load of serious information. I'm inclined to take this seriously, but it would helpful to see some sources. And it would make sense to send them to McGee, on the off chance he isn't up to speed yet. Last I heard on the subject was his Times article, which said go to town on the leaves.

 

Edited to Add: I hit send before seeing the questions about raw vs. cooked. What do we know about the effect of cooking on those alkaloids?


Edited by paulraphael (log)

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Since I have a sensitivity to some tomato plants - the potato-leaf varieties, and have to wear gloves and long sleeves or end up with welts on my arms when working with the plants, I will err on the side of caution.

 

I had what was then called "serum hepatitis" back in the 1960s - from a needle stick when I was drawing blood on a patient who jerked away - and I have taken very good care of my liver and refuse to experiment with any foods that may compromise it.  Also I have kidney disease, another contraindication for consuming these alkaloids which may or may not be toxic but are inadvisable for me.

 

Alcohol is not poisonous per se but could kill me because I have an allergy to it.

 

Not everyone is the same and not every person has the same tolerance to certain chemical compounds.  My puppy died from eating a tomato plant, which caused liver and kidney failure - the vet said his symptoms and the post mort showed organ changes similar to that seen when pets (or people) ingest antifreeze but there was no sign of ethylene glycol in the tox tests.

 

Consumption of certain GMO foods for GENERATIONS is just now beginning to show the long term effects. 

The problems, which have been recognized in other countries, which have banned GMO foods, is that these things were INTRODUCED into out diet without our knowledge or consent.

We are a nation of guinea pigs and no one knows when the ticking time bomb will explode. 


Edited by andiesenji (log)
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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Where's the definitive evidence that cooked tomato leaves or stems are a serious risk?

The poisonous substances in tomato greens are glycoalkaloids, these tend to be rather heat stable; cooking will probably reduces the toxicity somewhat, but not to a great extend. (One source here).

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I am among those that get welty and itchy after being in my tomato garden so I'll abstain from eating the leaves.  I don't want to be itchy on the inside too ;)

I'm not about to try any tomato leaves in my food.  At the senior center last Friday I was chatting with a group of ladies I hang out with (we are all elderly) and since most have been enthusiastic gardeners in the past, I asked what they thought about consuming tomato leaves. 

All expressed surprise that anyone would bother because they are known to cause problems. One lady who only recently got rid of her goats said that goats will eat just about anything but will avoid tomato plants even if they are hungry and that is the only green plant around. 

 

And you can make an effective insecticide from tomato leaves:  See the article here.    Same formula with potato leaves.

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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Harold McGee is one of my heroes and a national treasure but he claims in his article ,

  "there’s scant evidence for tomato toxicity in the medical and veterinary literature."

This is not strictly true. Google Scholar is the place to search for published Journal articles and their medical literature database is one of the most comprehensive in the world for current research. I did a search for Tomato leaf toxicity and humans and then for animals and it gave some interesting research suggesting it's best not to ingest tomato leaves or flowers. You don't need to be a member to access findings as most articles have a free summary.

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So has anyone taken the plunge and consumed some tomato leaves?


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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