Everyone knows vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, but not everyone knows that they belong to the nightshade family. Making a nightshade list is quite problematic, as it will include more than 2,500 different plants growing around the world.
Those who are interested in what kind of vegetables belong to the nightshade, it will be useful to get acquainted with the most common crops.
Some members of the nightshade family are known to everyone.
Potatoes are one of the most popular representatives of nightshade vegetables. In Russia, this is the most important food crop, which, in addition to food, is also used in other industries, for example, in the chemical or textile.
Potato is an annual culture, tuberous, propagated vegetatively. The plant is a small bush that forms from 5 to 15 tubers in the soil, depending on the variety.
Planting cuttings in potato tuber
Being moisture - and a photophilous plant, potatoes stop their growth when the air temperature drops to +5 degrees or rises above +35 degrees. All varieties of this variety are divided into table and universal. The culture contains a fairly large amount of starch - from 10 to 16%.
Although eggplant is a perennial culture, in Russia it is cultivated as an annual one. The stem of the plant is initially grassy, but from 50 days of age it begins to stiffen. The color of the nodes and stems is predominantly green, only in the upper part pale purple or dark purple. The plant stem branches and can grow up to 125 centimeters, depending on the variety. The leaves of the eggplant are quite large, can grow up to 35 cm in length, the shape is ovoid. The plant blooms in large single flowers or flowers gathered in a curl of light purple or dark purple color.
The eggplant fruit is a multi-chamber berry about 15 cm long. The weight of the fruit can vary from 50 g to 2 kg. The color of ripe fruits is dark purple or light purple. Eggplants are most widely used in cooking: they prepare all kinds of dishes and preserve for the winter.
Another well-known vegetable representative of the nightshade family is a tomato. Previously, it was believed that this vegetable is harmful and only harms the body. Today, tomatoes are actively used in cooking, make preparations and prepare all kinds of fresh salads with it. The birthplace of the plant is South America. Since these nightshade vegetables are recognized as healthy and tasty, they have spread all over the world.
The root system of a tomato is quite powerful and deep. The stem is erect (lodging in some varieties).
The culture can reach a height of 2 meters, there are also artificially bred dwarf varieties, the height of which does not exceed 30 cm.
Leaves of tomatoes are pinnate, the plant blooms with small yellow flowers that gather in small racemose inflorescences. Culture is cultivated solely for the sake of fruits, which, from the point of view of botany, are berries. In this regard, there is an ongoing debate among specialists regarding whether a vegetable or fruit is still a tomato.
Interesting. In 2001, tomato in the EU was legally recognized as a fruit.
Pepper is another nightshade familiar to everyone. This is a perennial shrub that is cultivated mainly as an annual crop. The stalk of the plant at a young age is grassy, with time it coarsens and becomes stiff. The height of the plant depends on the variety and can vary from 20 to 125 cm (in protected ground it can grow even up to 3 meters). The shape of the stem of the pepper can be bushy, semi-standard or standard.
Most of the total mass of culture is foliage. The color of the sheets is from light to dark green. The flowers are characterized by a wheel shape. They can be paired, single or even bundled.
Pepper fruit can be of different colors, shapes and sizes. Weight can also be very different - from 5 to 200 grams. Peppers are widely used for cooking and canned for the winter.
Physalis is a plant that grows to a height of about one and a half to two meters, dotted with a large number of lantern flowers. Flowers can be red, orange or yellow.
The culture usually blooms in May, the ripening of berries occurs closer to September. Physalis is usually referred to as ornamental plants. It is often grown as a decoration for garden and suburban areas, but some of its varieties are quite edible and are used in cooking. Outwardly, the physalis fruit is a bit like a small tomato. Its color may be orange, yellow or green, depending on the particular variety.
The list of vegetables from the nightshade family can be supplemented by another name - melon pear. It is an evergreen shrub native to South America. It is grown for the sake of sweet and edible fruits, which in their aroma and color in many respects resemble a cucumber, melon or pumpkin. The most widespread culture was in New Zealand, Peru and Chile.
In Russian conditions, the melon pear is practically not grown
Another name for the melon pear is pepino. This is a perennial semi-lignified shrub growing up to one and a half meters. Pepino fruits differ in variety - they vary not only in shape and size, but also in color and taste characteristics.
Features of vegetable nightshade crops
Despite the prevalence of Solanaceae family vegetables, they may well cause some harm to health, therefore they should be taken with food with caution. So, for example, not everyone knows that this family includes not only safe potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, but also such cultures as belena, tobacco and dope, which many pharmacists consider to be narcotic substances.
How Solanaceans act on health
Some experts, including nutritionists, believe that the constant use of Solanaceae can be detrimental to health. Excess in the diet of vegetables that can be attributed to this family has a very versatile harmful effect:
- provokes joint pain or enhances them;
- causes insomnia;
- creates problems with the gastrointestinal tract;
- helps to accelerate the aging process of the body;
- exacerbates the course of a number of chronic diseases.
Researchers have not yet been able to convincingly prove the similar effect of nightshade vegetables on the human body. Despite this, many adherents of the theory of danger of nightshade make efforts to reduce their number in their diet.
The effect of steroidal alkaloids on the nervous system
Most of the medical research conducted on nightshade products is associated with a special substance that is part of them. It's about alkaloids.
Steroid alkaloids are especially dangerous because they can have a significant effect on the nervous system. They block the activity of cholinesterase in nerve cells, which, in turn, leads to impaired control of muscle movement by the nervous system. Symptoms are muscle cramps, tremors, and cramps. However, if we take as an example potatoes, it simply does not contain such a quantity of steroidal alkaloids to cause the above deviations. So the danger of nightshade (at least some of them) is exaggerated.
Sensitivity to Solanaceae
A certain category of people demonstrates an allergic reaction to vegetables in the nightshade family. Symptoms of hypersensitivity to such crops may include:
- muscle and joint pain;
- excessive mucus production.
The best way to solve the problem is to exclude nightshade from the diet in principle. If there is no firm confidence that there is an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the product, but suspicions have already arisen, experts strongly recommend starting to keep a food diary and write down all the symptoms in it.
Other members of the family
Having found the answer to the question, Solanaceae are still vegetables, it would not be superfluous to mention that many medicinal and ornamental plants also belong to this family.
Although there are certain benefits for the body from medicinal crops of the nightshade family, they should be used with great care and low dosages, since they are poisonous. This group can include:
- wolfberries (expectorant, diuretic, choleretic, also effective for skin diseases, like psoriasis);
- belladonna (leaves and roots - excellent anesthetics and antispasmodics);
- black henbane (used as a painkiller, sedative);
- ordinary dope (antispasmodic and sedative effect);
- tobacco (used in traditional medicine for the treatment of skin diseases);
- and some others.
Little is known that wolfberries are a very useful healing plant.
Ornamental plants of the nightshade family are very much appreciated by gardeners. These include hybrid petunia, allspice tobacco, caliber calico and some other varieties of nightshade. All of them become an excellent decoration of a garden plot and can become a bright element of any landscape design.
Decorative tobacco blooms very beautifully
The nightshade family is incredibly diverse. Despite the ambiguous attitude of nutritionists and physicians towards it, there is no convincing evidence that potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants or tomatoes can harm the body. Therefore, one should not be afraid to eat them, plant them on personal plots and apply medicinal formulations based on nightshade plants.