Can You Tell Whether or Not This Item Is Edible?

Jacqueline Samaroo

Image: Javier Fernández Sánchez / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Got the munchies? Come whet your appetite with this delightful quiz about things you never knew you could eat, as well as some things which would make a real "killer" meal!

Plants we would not normally think of as food can be some of the most surprising edibles. They can also be the ones with the most dangers lurking inside of them. For example, while the dangers of poison ivy are well known, few people are aware that it has some very close relatives which can be readily found in homes and gardens. There are even certain parts of otherwise edible fruits and veggies that could pose a serious life-or-death risk! Do you know which ones to be wary of?

There are many items around us which, at the point of desperation, could actually be life-sustaining food. You just have to know what to look for since there are also items which might seem edible but are riddled with toxins. Survivalists are sure to spot quite a few of these lifesavers in case you are every lost in the wilderness. They will also know which ones are so deadly that you should be avoiding them like the plague!

Think you can trust your instincts on this quiz? Come take a bite - if you dare!

Mothballs are used as an insect repellant, but is it safe for humans to eat them?

The pesticide in mothballs might be naphthalene or another substance known as para-dichlorobenzene. Both are thought to be possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in humans. Plus, ingesting naphthalene can lead to kidney and liver damage.

Poison ivy contains urushiol, which causes a skin rash, but is it safe to eat?

The chemical urushiol in poison ivy leads to an allergic reaction characterized by an intense itch and painful rash. Inhaling fumes from a burning poison ivy plant can cause the rash to develop in the lungs. Similarly, eating poison ivy can adversely affect the soft tissues in your mouth and your digestive track.

More than 20 species of scorpions are venomous enough to kill a human but can we eat them?

Scorpions are venomous and can be deadly, but they are edible both raw and cooked. High heat can be used to break down the venom and make it harmless. If the scorpion is to be eaten raw (sometimes alive, as well), then the stinger and venom sacs should be removed first.

The philodendron makes an attractive house plant but can it be safely consumed?

Nibbling the leaves of your philodendron probably won’t kill you, but it could have some unpleasant effects. These include a swollen tongue, difficulty swallowing and a burning sensation inside your mouth.

Will raw red kidney beans harm you if you eat them or are they safe?

As little as five raw red kidney beans contain sufficient amounts of a toxin known as phytohaemagglutinin to cause nausea and severe vomiting. Raw white kidney beans (or cannellini beans) pose the same risk.

Are dandelions fit for human consumption or are they just annoying garden weeds?

Dandelions are more than just edible – they are quite nutritious! The plant’s roots, stems, leaves and flowers can all be safely eaten and are excellent sources of several vitamins and minerals.

Whether you call them swamp sausage or corn dog grass, is it safe for you to munch on cattails?

Several parts of the cattail plant are edible. These include the inner stems and leaf bases, as well as the pollen from the head of the mature flower, which can be used as a protein-rich flour. The immature flower heads can also be boiled for eating corn-on-the-cob-style.

Can grasshoppers, also known as locusts, be eaten or should you refrain?

It’s quite okay to jump right in and enjoy a dish of grasshoppers. Like maggots, they are a healthy source of protein, once they are properly prepared – cooked, not raw. Eating uncooked grasshoppers could expose you to parasitic roundworms which they tend to carry.

Are rhubarb leaves just as edible as their fleshy pie-making stems?

The stems of rhubarb leaves are edible whether cooked or raw and are often prepared as sweet treats. The leaves, however, have dangerously high levels of toxic substances which can lead to tissue damage and even kidney failure.

Is the prickly-looking kiwano fruit edible or should you avoid it?

The kiwano fruit, which is also known as the horned melon or jelly melon, is traditionally eaten in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and has recently gained some measure of popularity elsewhere in the world. It has the texture of passionfruit and the taste of ripe bananas. Its spiky peel can also be eaten as an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.

Are lima beans like most other beans – toxic when raw?

Just like raw red kidney beans, raw lima beans contain phytohemagglutinin and can make you sick if you eat them. Boiling the beans destroys the poison, making them safe to eat and enjoy!

Is the water hemlock safe to eat or should you forgo snacking on it?

Water hemlock looks very much like celery and parsnip and is often mistaken for them. It is, however, among the most poisonous of plants and is often referred to as poison parsnip. Eating water hemlock can lead to nausea, painful convulsions, abdominal cramps and even death.

Are wood lice, or “land shrimp,” fit for human consumption?

Wood lice (singular: wood louse) are frequently referred to as bugs, but they are actually crustaceans – like crabs, lobsters and shrimp. They are safe to eat once they are thoroughly cooked to ensure they do not pass on parasitic roundworms to anyone consuming them.

Is gold leaf just an expensive form of decoration or can it be eaten, too?

Gold leaf may be completely tasteless and with no nutritive value, but it is also completely edible. Since gold is a very unreactive metal, it can be added to various types of food and will simply pass right through your system when eaten. Other edible metals, such as silver, can also be added to foods.

Is the sweet-smelling lily of the valley good for your sweet tooth or should you be avoiding it?

This delicately beautiful and extremely poisonous plant contains cardiac glycosides – substances that increase the pumping force of the heart, as well as speed up the heart rate. Persons who consume any part of the lily of the valley plant may experience vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea and vomiting. It can also lead to death.

Can forget-me-nots be consumed or should you just forget about it?

The small, tender blue flowers of the forget-me-not plant are perfectly edible. They can be eaten raw on their own as a snack, added to salads, or used to garnish other food items, such as cupcakes.

Are wiggly earthworms something you could consider eating or are they bad for you?

Earthworms may seem dirty and slimy, but they are edible and are even considered as a delicacy in some cultures. Earthworms can be harvested by digging them up or waiting for them to surface after a rainfall. They should be cooked before eating since there is a tendency for them to be carriers of parasitic worms.

Are the beans of the ornamental castor bean plant safe to eat or can they kill you?

The castor bean plant may make a pretty garden addition, but it is, in fact, one of the most poisonous plants on the planet. Just one or two seeds form this plant have enough of the poison ricin to kill a small child. An adult would only need to consume about eight of them for it to prove fatal.

Should you consider the uniquely beautiful daffodil as food or is it something to be avoided?

The bulbs, stems and leaves of the daffodil plant contain a poison known as lycorine, which can cause severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Just handling daffodils as you cut them and place them in a vase can lead to you developing an itchy rash. They will also have a negative effect on any other flowers in the vase with them.

Is the prickly pear cactus safe to eat or should you keep your distance?

The prickly pear cactus may be intimidating to look at, but the flesh of its leaves, stems and fruit is deliciously edible. It can be an extremely unpleasant experience, however, if the small spines which cover the plant are ingested. They can be peeled away with the skin or roasted off over an open flame.

Are wispy sweetcorn silks just pretty to look at or can they also be eaten?

While many persons relish eating cooked or raw sweetcorn kernels, few persons know that the silk on the corn cob is also edible. You can pour hot water over the dried silk and allow to brew for a soothing, anti-inflammatory cup of tea. Sweetcorn silk is said to be good for the urinary tract and is also a source of potassium and vitamin K.

Oleander sap can irritate your skin but is any other part of the plant safe to eat?

Its flowers may be pretty to look at, but every part of the oleander plant can kill you if ingested. In fact, the oleander is one of the deadliest plants on Earth, with evidence that even the honey made by bees which visited oleander plants can make you ill. Persons rarely get oleander poisoning, however, as its very bitter taste is immediately off-putting.

Are the colorful flowers of the pansy edible or just good to look at?

Pansies are popularly used as a garnish, but not many people actually bother to eat them. The entire flower is edible including the sepals (tiny leaves) at the base of the flower. They can be eaten raw (on their own or in a salad) as well as candied to make them sweeter and accentuate their flavors.

Apart from kissing under the mistletoe, is it OK to also consume it?

While it is safe for you to kiss under the mistletoe during the holiday season, it is very unwise for you to eat any part of the plant. The berries and the leaves have the highest concentration of poison and can prove fatal, especially for young children.

Is orange peel only good for making compost or can it be eaten, too?

Orange peel can be used as a flavoring for types of food. It is a good source of potassium, magnesium, fiber, and vitamin C, and can also be steeped in alcohol to make citrus-infused spirits, as well as candied or coated in chocolate as a sweet treat. Orange peel can also be used to make a refreshing tea in the same way that lemon peel is used.

Does ingesting lighter fluid provide any nutritional benefits or is it just plain bad for you?

If you should you get a burning desire to consume lighter fluid, ignore it! Lighter fluid can quickly lead to serious respiratory and cardiac complications, as well as death. It is, nonetheless, one of the most frequently abused chemicals found in homes.

Is maple bark edible or should it be avoided?

The coarse outer layer of maple bark is not particularly palatable, but the inner layers are edible. Strips of bark can be boiled and eaten, or ground bark can be used to bulk up some foods in the same way that wood pulp is routinely added to powdered cheese and cake mix.

Would it be totally bananas for you to eat banana peel or is it, in fact, edible?

Banana peels aren’t just edible; they are actually very nutritious! Whether eaten on their own, in a smoothie, fried or boiled, they are good sources of vitamins B6 and B12, fiber, potassium and magnesium. Just be sure to wash them before use to remove any traces of pesticides used in the production of the fruit.

Foxglove extract is used in treating heart failure but is the plant itself safe to consume?

Its beautiful flowers may not hint at the fact that all parts of the foxglove plant are dangerously toxic. Even when it is not fatal, the consumption of foxglove can make for a very unpleasant experience. Large quantities can cause you to experience irregular heartbeat, nausea, diarrhea, seizures and hallucinations.

Is the buttercup good to eat, as its name suggests, or should it be avoided?

Despite its name, all parts of the buttercup plant are poisonous to humans and to livestock which happens to graze on them. Apart from stomach upset and blistering on the inside of the mouth, buttercup can cause you to develop a painful rash if you handle the plant for a prolonged time.

Should you seriously consider eating avocado stones or are they inedible?

Avocado seeds are quite hard and most persons simply toss them out while they enjoy the flesh of the fruit. The seed, however, is edible with one common suggestion being to chop it up and add it into smoothies. It might help to ensure some of the other smoothie ingredients are quite sweet since the avocado stone is somewhat bitter.

Are maggots edible fare just like grubs or should you keep your distance?

The term maggot is generally used for fly larvae while grub refers to the larvae of beetles. Both are edible, although eating grub is a much more widespread practice. Maggots are high in protein but must definitely be cooked before eating to rid them of germs.

Should you partake of the melon rind or throw it out with the trash?

All parts of the watermelon fruit are edible, not just the sweet, juicy pulp. The seeds are crunchy with a nutty flavor when roasted and can be eaten whole or made into flour. The rind may seem particularly tasteless, but it can be pickled, stewed, stir-fried or added fresh to dishes such as salsa and salads.

Can you take advantage of the high calcium content of eggshells by eating them?

Eggshells are typically eaten as a finely ground powder made from shells which have been cleaned, boiled and baked. The powder can be added to all sorts of foods, including smoothies and dough used to make pasta and breads. Eggshell is rich in calcium with the powder from one chicken egg providing twice the daily recommended dose for the average adult.

Do you know whether the pit (or stone) inside a peach is edible or dangerous to your health?

While the flesh of the peach has various nutrients that are good for you, the pit can make you sick. It contains a substance called amygdalin that releases toxic cyanide in the body of anyone who eats it. Some other fruits whose pits contain amygdalin are apple, apricot, bitter almonds and plum.

The common chickweed plant can be fed to poultry but do you know if it is safe for humans to eat it?

As the “chick” in its name suggests, the chickweed plant can safely be used as poultry feed. It is also quite safe for humans to consume chickweed and persons who do often add it to fresh salads, but it can also be served boiled, steamed, as pesto or a tea.

Can raw unprocessed cashews be eaten or will they make you sick?

Cashew is closely related to poison ivy and poison sumac. All three contain urushiol, which can cause a painful skin rash, mouth blisters and damage to the digestive tract. Even when labeled as “raw,” cashews sold in stores have already been roasted to remove the shell that contains the urushiol and make the cashews safe to eat.

Are pine needles edible or do they have toxins that can kill you?

Pine needles, which are actually the leaves of the adult pine tree, are edible, as are pine bark and pine nuts. The needles are rich in vitamins A and C and can be used to make a nutritious tea.

Is the decorative cockscomb found on some types of poultry edible?

The cockscomb and wattle (similar growth hanging from the sides of the bird’s head) can be parboiled, peeled and added to a variety of sweet or savory dishes. The texture is described as soft and meaty, instead of the gluey chewiness most people expect before they taste it.

Are green potatoes edible or should you keep them off the menu?

Potatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, making them closely related to tomatoes, eggplants and tobacco. Each of these plants contains a toxin known as solanine that can cause nightmares, dizziness, headaches, gastrointestinal upset and even death. Solanine is present in high concentrations in green potatoes.

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