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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 09:17   #1
Ghostly Vision
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Hawthorn berries - poisonous or not?

Here's one that is troubling me.

How come Hawthorn berries are poisonous to humans, yet birds eat them and so does my dog - and neither of the latter suffer?

I was told it was because there is cyanide in the seeds, which of course birds don't swallow - but my dog chews them!

Any geniuses out there?

Sean
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 09:47   #2
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Sean
I didn't think they were poisonous - I've eaten Haw Jelly! Don't know about the seeds though.
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 09:54   #3
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Question

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Originally Posted by Ghostly Vision View Post
Here's one that is troubling me.

How come Hawthorn berries are poisonous to humans, yet birds eat them and so does my dog - and neither of the latter suffer?

I was told it was because there is cyanide in the seeds, which of course birds don't swallow - but my dog chews them!

Any geniuses out there?

Sean
Hi Sean

That is a good question, but not from a genius here, just someone who interested too.

It is obvious that birds have a unique digestion system that humans do not have. To think when we feed birds using ground feeders it is not although they are not affected by any earth and germs on their dinner.
So they have adjusted their digestive systems to eat berries as they are because nature wants them - there to disperse seeds all over the place. So there must be a lot of give and take between wild animals and trees.
I know Blackbirds are food mad about Rowan berries.

I am not sure about dogs and domestic animals as dogs, but I would not take that risk with them and encourage them to eat berries. I had a pony years ago, and eating certain berries, cause severe poisoning to horses (ie berries and bushes - Deadly Nightshade, Oak Trees, Hemlock, Bracken and more...). The Yew being the worst offender. Thank goodness there was no problem. Horse owners have to be vigilant at all times with what was growing in the hedgerow. Anyway going of topic here.

Here is a link which is interesting too, but not to try anything here just incase (maybe some folklore/oldwives tales attached here). Hawthorn is used in food according to this link below

http://www.the-tree.org.uk/BritishTr.../hawthornc.htm

Regards
Kathy
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 10:01   #4
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Many plants/seeds contain low levels of cyanide - e.g. almonds. Not sure how many hawthorn berries you would have to eat before you noticed a problem. I bet it's a lot.

Many birds swallow the berries whole including seeds surely?

Cyanide isn't one chemical of course (it's an ion or functional group) and is present in many substances not all of which are poisonous.
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 10:22   #5
Peewit
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Many birds swallow the berries whole including seeds surely?
Hi Brian

Yes, you are right, the seeds are swallowed whole, and the 'Thrushes' are good for doing this. They are flying seed dispersers.

Another link to show what happens to the seeds.

http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/fores...dispersal.html.

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Kathy
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 15:32   #6
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Hi Sean.

Haws aren't poisonous, try one, they actually taste quite pleasant, not sweet, more earthy. The new leaves in spring taste the same too and make a nice garnish to a roast instead of parsley. But mabey not to everyones taste.

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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 18:32   #7
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There's cyanide in many seeds of the rose family (e.g. bitter almonds, apple seeds), and as the ion (cyanide) or the gas (hydrogen cyanide) it's a very dangerous poison indeed. However, in the seeds it is present as a compound called amygdalin built up from hydrogen cyanide, benzaldehyde and a sugar. The cyanide is released when this compound comes into contact with an enzyme (oxynitrilase) which is also present in the seeds: this happens when the seed is being eaten – isn't that clever?
Waxwings (for example), even though they don't chew the seeds (and should be less afflicted anyway) are much more tolerant of amygdalin than mammals.
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 19:08   #8
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i recently watched a ray mears program where he took hawthorn berries squeezed them in his hands to remove most of the seeds this just left the juice which after a while solidifed in the bowl to form a jelly he sliced this up and dried it in the sun
he and his mate ate it and said it tastes like boiled sweets
apparently our ancestors uesd this technique a lot as the resulting food lasts up to three years and is very nutrious
on the same program he showed how to make acorns edible although this didn't look that appetizing
cheers
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 20:09   #9
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i recently watched a ray mears program where he took hawthorn berries squeezed them in his hands to remove most of the seeds this just left the juice which after a while solidifed in the bowl to form a jelly he sliced this up and dried it in the sun
he and his mate ate it and said it tastes like boiled sweets
apparently our ancestors uesd this technique a lot as the resulting food lasts up to three years and is very nutrious
on the same program he showed how to make acorns edible although this didn't look that appetizing
cheers
Hi Paul.

If I remember correctly that was Buckthorn, but I am open to correction.

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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 20:10   #10
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isn't that clever?
Aren't you clever!
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 20:16   #11
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Sea Buckthorn is very thorny, so if it was that would you have any feeling left in your mouth, unless it was the roots that are eaten.

Mind you Ray Mears, is quite an unique man with his culinary habits, so we never know what he is going to do next.

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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 20:18   #12
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Hi Paul.

If I remember correctly that was Buckthorn, but I am open to correction.

Twite.
hi twite
yes i saw the one with the sea buckthorn as well. if i remember correctly they actually drank the bright orange liquid on that occasion
this was a different programme and i'm sure it was hawthorn although my memory is not that great
i know one thing though if i was ever lost in the wilderness the one person i would want with me is mr mears
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 20:31   #13
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hi twite
yes i saw the one with the sea buckthorn as well. if i remember correctly they actually drank the bright orange liquid on that occasion
this was a different programme and i'm sure it was hawthorn although my memory is not that great
i know one thing though if i was ever lost in the wilderness the one person i would want with me is mr mears
cheers
Hi Paul.

I'm sure you must be right, especially as you describe the Buckthorn episode pretty much as I remember it.
If you had room for one person in your liferaft to get you to a desert island and your choice was Ray Mears or Claudia Schiffer. Who would it be?
What a dilemma, unless Claudia can light fires and skin animals that is.

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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 20:58   #14
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Hi Paul.


If you had room for one person in your liferaft to get you to a desert island and your choice was Ray Mears or Claudia Schiffer. Who would it be?
What a dilemma, unless Claudia can light fires and skin animals that is.

Twite.
i reckon survival is probably overated anyway
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 21:14   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twite View Post
Hi Paul.

I'm sure you must be right, especially as you describe the Buckthorn episode pretty much as I remember it.
If you had room for one person in your liferaft to get you to a desert island and your choice was Ray Mears or Claudia Schiffer. Who would it be?
What a dilemma, unless Claudia can light fires and skin animals that is.

Twite.
Hi Twite

Claudia Schiffer is every mans dream, I am sure and you are allowed to have those thoughts. . Ray Mears is to rough and ready for us girls but I am sure some will think differently here

It looks although Sea Buckthorn is edible too by all accounts. It is certainly interesting to know these things as I thought all wild bushes with berries where poisonous so how wrong can we be.

So we all have learned something here.

Yet another one of those links explaining all the facts about Sea Buckthorn

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants....hae+rhamnoides

I remember many years ago when I was a young lass, the DUNES - John Muir Country Park - East Lothian (on the East Coast of Scotland), where shifting in an non environmentally healthy way. So the solution was to pack excess Sea Buckthorn in a hole in the sand, so that the Dunes would not move around so much. Part of conservation of nature reserves close to the sea.

I am sure there are other ways to deal with dunes now which are more robust in the 'plant' department these days. I did not know if Sea Buckthorn had any effect or not. It seems to keep the Dunes on the shore lines in order.

There is a closely related garden species on the go in the garden department. I am sure that there are hedges (grown) in peoples gardens that planted purely for the long spikes that Buckthorn throws out. Trying to remember the name at the moment (had a couple of glasses of wine here). Will come back no doubt.

Regards
Kathy
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 21:26   #16
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Birds only digest the fleshy parts of seeds - the hard centre passes through them and is dispersed with a little bit of 'fertiliser' already attached!

Humans tend to eat the flesh but spit out the 'pip' before swallowing it, so long before we knew the chemical make up of seeds we were obviously aware of how dangerous they might be.
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Old Friday 30th November 2007, 21:55   #17
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Hi Kathy.

Thanks for the link, what a brilliant site. I'm sure to make a lot of use of it.

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Old Saturday 1st December 2007, 14:59   #18
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Well I think I've nearly got my answer; thanks all - most interesting.

So should I keep my dog away form Hawthorn berries or not?

Sean
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Old Saturday 1st December 2007, 16:09   #19
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Well I think I've nearly got my answer; thanks all - most interesting.

So should I keep my dog away form Hawthorn berries or not?

Sean
Hi Sean

I would keep your dog from anything, other than normal dog food. Mind some dogs will eat anything that is edible - Hawthorn berries or otherwise.

It will be safer that way, and then there there will be no unexpected surprises - such as Vets bills bring

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Kathy
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 09:01   #20
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Yes, Kathy, it is rather difficult to keep him away from the rabbit, horse & sheep poo - he's pretty quick at snatching it!

Being a terrier he's pretty sharp whe a Rabbit or pheasant is nearby.

Little sod!

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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 10:04   #21
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it is rather difficult to keep him away from the rabbit, horse & sheep poo - he's pretty quick at snatching it!
I used to have a dog that could hoover-up rabbit poo on the move, without breaking her stride pattern!
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 11:02   #22
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Hi to all, my very first post on BF. Was intersested to read about hawthorn berries,I too saw ray Mears, so I tried his recipe- squeeze out juice, filter & dry in sun; I had no sun & I made it a bit too wet by adding water- the top layer went rubbery in fridge. Tasted OK & I didn`t die- so, yes it`s ok to eat !
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 12:14   #23
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Hi to all, my very first post on BF. Was intersested to read about hawthorn berries,I too saw ray Mears, so I tried his recipe- squeeze out juice, filter & dry in sun; I had no sun & I made it a bit too wet by adding water- the top layer went rubbery in fridge. Tasted OK & I didn`t die- so, yes it`s ok to eat !
Adventurous types welcome on BF.

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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 18:19   #24
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we used them as ammo in our pea shooters as kids we often swallowed them, and i am still here, mmm well, maybe only just.
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Old Sunday 2nd December 2007, 19:21   #25
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Yes when I was a child we used to eat Hawthorn berries and the leaves from the Hawthorn.Bread and cheese it was called.Still around ,so they are not fatal to humans.Dogs have an extremely diverse digestive system.This morning Alfie was found to be eating a dead sheep,which had been washed up on the beach.Needless to say he reguritated the contents of his stomach on the carpet,and is now enjoying his dental chew!!!.
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