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Beneficial role(s) of black nightshade in garden/yard?

 
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Hi everyone

I am pretty sure I have black nightshade in my yard (the solanus americanum variety). I am reading that the berries of this variety of plant are toxic until fully ripe. I am interested in having a variety of fruits in my yard, so that would be one reason to not interfere with nature doing her thing here. From a wider perspective, what could be this plant's role in permaculture (aside from adding more "poly" to "polyculture"), and more specifically, in my yard (where I am gardening) over the long term? My guesses:

- provide fruit for wildlife
- support aphid/ant symbiosis (the ones in my yard like to accumulate black aphids)
- ?

I am not crazy about the aphid population booming, but could that encourage ladybugs to move in? (haven't seen any here in the past few months).

I am also wondering if any of you have information on whether or not this plant accumulates anything which would make it useful in rapidly developing soil health. I've also read this plant has solanine in it, and if solanine is a plant's natural insect defense/ has insecticidal properties -- could composting this plant help develop soil (and therefore plants) which are more pest-resistant?

I have just been on the forums a few months and also just got started with learning about permaculture, so please pardon if I missed something obvious which would have helped me connect the dots.
 
pollinator
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Sam Thayer has written a good deal about black nightshade at this page. It is used extensively as a food plant in many places of the world, reported poisonings can be traced back to misidentification, usually with belladonna (which is the plant the deserves the name "deadly nightshade", but they are pretty easily distinguished from each other.
 
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Last time I ate several hundred very ripe, raw, berries of black nightshade, Solanum nigrum,  I suffered severe gastrointestinal distress.
 
Mac Kugler
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Richard Kastanie wrote:Sam Thayer has written a good deal about black nightshade at this page. It is used extensively as a food plant in many places of the world, reported poisonings can be traced back to misidentification, usually with belladonna (which is the plant the deserves the name "deadly nightshade", but they are pretty easily distinguished from each other.



Thank you for sharing this excellent and well-written resource. I think his reporting style is great and I like the anecdotes. This resource confirms my decision to keep the plant in the yard.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Last time I ate several hundred very ripe, raw, berries of black nightshade, Solanum nigrum,  I suffered severe gastrointestinal distress.



I am really sorry to hear that. :( I am sure the ones in my yard aren't that variety. Even so, I'll start with just a few.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I am really sorry to hear that. :( I am sure the ones in my yard aren't that variety. Even so, I'll start with just a few.



I ate a few all season long, without problems. It was only when I ate a whole bunch (hundreds) at once that I was poisoned. It's my policy that I have to taste seeds from every plant before saving seeds from them. I had a whole row of plants to taste... And they were delicious!!!

The next day, I went to the garden, and thoroughly gathered together the plants and berries, and sent them to the landfill. I rarely send plants to the landfill.





 
Richard Kastanie
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I should have been more clear in my last post, I don't mean to dismiss any concerns about negative reactions. I've only had the berries raw in small quantities myself, never had more since I wasn't particularly fond of the taste of them raw. I could very well have had a bad reaction to them in larger quantities as well. Even the commonly eaten nightshade family plants don't sit well with certain people, and I've had my share of food intolerances too like with pawpaws which I shared on this thread. Sam Thayer has in general proven a pretty reliable resource for me, and I think the toxicity concerns he's addressing are more from people who've claimed it's extremely poisonous through confusion with belladonna, but like with any food its good to trust what our bodies tell us. After hearing Joseph's experience, I'd think it best to try it in small quantities first. Cooked berries may be more easily tolerated than raw ones as well.
 
pollinator
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I like solanum nigrum. Garden candy. Pick only the ripe berries. I've never had problems. At the moment the plants are naturalizing in my yard, happily creating mulch and more plants to create more mulch. I wouldn't know what other permaculture uses they have. They appear to be pretty shallow rooted but they're thriving where there's little water and lots of sun (albeit under thick woodchips). I've never seen bees or birds interested in the plants, which means all the fruit is mine.
 
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I have a hard time with GI reports about black nightshade because I've eaten it often with no issues, although not in massive amounts, and I've also had GI issues from eating grocery store fruits in massive amounts. I'm pretty sure most of the complaints about solanum nigrum being poison are due to confusion with the other "black nightshade", atropa belladonna. As for the rest, maybe I'm underestimating the extent of the gastrointestinal distress but if I eat a whole bag of cherries (for example), I would be bloating and feeling urky and pooping liquid for days; that doesn't mean ripe cherries are poison, not even when you factor in that the pits and bark and roots and leaves of the plant are poison. It just means I ate too many cherries. I can easily imagine some alternate universe where nobody wants to eat cherries because they're convinced that it's poisonous. Once upon a time we said the same about tomatoes, too.
 
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