Tomato greens

saysfaa

Crowing
Jul 1, 2017
1,195
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Upper Midwest, USA
My chicks have been the leaves of eating tomato seedlings in fairly large quantities for several weeks. Tonight, I saw a reference to tomato leaves being poisonous. Yikes!!

So I looked into it. First, I searched for tomato leaves eaten by chickens and found pages of results all saying they are toxic because tomatoes are in the nightshade family. Well, I know that is why Europeans' raised them as ornamentals only for hundreds of years because all parts were thought to be poisonous. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-the-tomato-was-feared-in-europe-for-more-than-200-years-863735/#:~:text=The tomato was eaten by the Aztecs as,have first introduced the seeds to southern Europe.

A few results said a bit more.. that there was more of the "toxic alkaloid" (the substance that makes nightshades toxic) in the leaves and stems than in the ripe fruit. And that chickens might taste the leaves but won't eat much because the alkaloid is so bitter. I'm read this, sitting among my chicks who are enthusiastically chowing down on the tomato leaves - ignoring even the clover and dandelion greens for them. And the chicks weren't hungry - they had chick starter available all day and already had their supper of fresh feed.

So I looked further.

Well, that is true that there is more tomatine (the specific kind of alkalois in tomatoes) in the leaves than in the ripe fruits. But it is still very little. And is possibly not absorbed (it is bound to cholesterol and carried out in the feces), and there is some indication that several species benefit from tomatine in the diet.

I consider these sources to be interesting and worth using for pointers on what to look for in further research rather than solid sources themselves (except the USDA, maybe).

https://www.foodrepublic.com/2017/06/29/can-eat-tomato-leaves/

https://patchtotable.com/toxic-chicken-treats-myths-and-facts-about-what-you-can-feed-your-chickens/

https://www.pawsdogdaycare.com/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/tomato-poisonous-pets

"Because compared to the other glycoalkaloids, the tomato glycoalkalaoid tomatine exhibits low toxicity in animals and humans, future studies should concentrate on two tomato compounds. Plant scientists are challenged to develop high-tomatine red tomatoes by suppressing the genes that partly degrade tomatine during ripening of the fruit on the vine. High-tomatine red tomatoes will contain two anticarcinogenic and cholesterol-lowering compounds – tomatine and the antioxidative red pigment lycopene. The potential payoff will benefit the agricultural economy and human health." https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=314444

For what it is worth, almost all the tomato seedling my chicks have been eating are volunteers from last years current tomatoes. dr. mendel friedman's research indicates the smaller the fruit, the higher the tomatine levels (in the fruir, at least).

I don't have a firm opinion on the subject yet but I am much less concerned about what looked like a big mistake.
 

TheDuckGuy

Songster
Nov 29, 2020
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748
181
My chicks have been the leaves of eating tomato seedlings in fairly large quantities for several weeks. Tonight, I saw a reference to tomato leaves being poisonous. Yikes!!

So I looked into it. First, I searched for tomato leaves eaten by chickens and found pages of results all saying they are toxic because tomatoes are in the nightshade family. Well, I know that is why Europeans' raised them as ornamentals only for hundreds of years because all parts were thought to be poisonous. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-the-tomato-was-feared-in-europe-for-more-than-200-years-863735/#:~:text=The tomato was eaten by the Aztecs as,have first introduced the seeds to southern Europe.

A few results said a bit more.. that there was more of the "toxic alkaloid" (the substance that makes nightshades toxic) in the leaves and stems than in the ripe fruit. And that chickens might taste the leaves but won't eat much because the alkaloid is so bitter. I'm read this, sitting among my chicks who are enthusiastically chowing down on the tomato leaves - ignoring even the clover and dandelion greens for them. And the chicks weren't hungry - they had chick starter available all day and already had their supper of fresh feed.

So I looked further.

Well, that is true that there is more tomatine (the specific kind of alkalois in tomatoes) in the leaves than in the ripe fruits. But it is still very little. And is possibly not absorbed (it is bound to cholesterol and carried out in the feces), and there is some indication that several species benefit from tomatine in the diet.

I consider these sources to be interesting and worth using for pointers on what to look for in further research rather than solid sources themselves (except the USDA, maybe).

https://www.foodrepublic.com/2017/06/29/can-eat-tomato-leaves/

https://patchtotable.com/toxic-chicken-treats-myths-and-facts-about-what-you-can-feed-your-chickens/

https://www.pawsdogdaycare.com/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/tomato-poisonous-pets

"Because compared to the other glycoalkaloids, the tomato glycoalkalaoid tomatine exhibits low toxicity in animals and humans, future studies should concentrate on two tomato compounds. Plant scientists are challenged to develop high-tomatine red tomatoes by suppressing the genes that partly degrade tomatine during ripening of the fruit on the vine. High-tomatine red tomatoes will contain two anticarcinogenic and cholesterol-lowering compounds – tomatine and the antioxidative red pigment lycopene. The potential payoff will benefit the agricultural economy and human health." https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=314444

For what it is worth, almost all the tomato seedling my chicks have been eating are volunteers from last years current tomatoes. dr. mendel friedman's research indicates the smaller the fruit, the higher the tomatine levels (in the fruir, at least).

I don't have a firm opinion on the subject yet but I am much less concerned about what looked like a big mistake.
I say just don't give them anymore
 

K0k0shka

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
Jul 24, 2019
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Boston Area, MA
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Good information. Also good to note that the nightshades that Europeans avoided eating centuries ago aren't the same plants we have today. Lots of plants that used to be poisonous or inedible have been bred and selected and cultivated to be fine for human consumption, and are now quite different from what the original plants were a long time ago. The nightshade family being the most notable example.
 

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