Can you eat plum seeds?

In this article,  I will answer the question: “Can you eat plum seeds?” and I provided the risks related to eating it, and some ideas to use it in other non-food applications.

Can you eat plum seeds?

No you can’t eat plum seeds. Stone fruits, such as cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, and mangoes, have cyanide chemicals in their seeds, which are toxic. Plants like apple, apricot and plums’ seeds and cores contain an important degree of cyanogen glycosides, which can lead to intoxication and also death (1).

If you ingest a fruit pit by accident, it is unlikely to hurt you. The seeds, on the other hand, should not be crushed or chewed. If cores have been swallowed completely, cyanide releases less; but if eaten with chewing, toxicity becomes more due to emulsion release from lysosomes (1). 

Health risks related to plum pits ingestion:

A plum pit contains roughly 9 mg of cyanide; a deadly dose requires 200-300mg orally, therefore cyanide poisoning is unlikely unless you eat 20 or more plum pits.

Cyanide is one of the most rapidly acting poisons. Cyanide intoxications are the most dangerous poisonings and may occur by oral, respiratory and dermal routes. Oral cyanide poisoning occurs after ingestion of various foods containing cyanogenic glycosides, like bitter almond and apricot seed, cherry seed and leaf, plum seed and apple seed (1).

Cyanide poisoning include: vomiting, heavy breathing, apnea, tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, coma, skin irritation, fever, dullness and convulsion. Muscular rigidity, rhabdomyolysis, increment levels of serum creatine and serum creatine kinase, albuminuria, thyroid toxicity are other toxic signs. Macular degeneration and optic atrophy are among signs of chronic toxicity. Metabolic acidosis is seen by 67 % of oral toxic patients as acute. Headaches, loss of consciousness, convulsions, positive Babinsky sign, hemiparesis, dysphonia, parkinsonism, coma, death can be seen because of neurological system affection after oral intake of cyanide (1). 

In some cases, antidotes are available, such as amyl nitrite, sodium nitrite, hydroxylamine, p aminopropiophenone, 4-dimethylaminophenol, and primakin like compounds. Other treatments include oxygen therapy, fluids, drugs, such as sodium thiosulphate, hydroxycobalamin like cyanide antagonists have been used and supportive care (1).

What are the types of pits in plums?

Plums, like peaches and nectarines, exist in both cling and freestone varieties. Cling types have flesh that clings to the pit tenaciously, whereas freestones have flesh that easily separates from the stone.

  • Freestone plums: Because it is easier to remove the pit from freestone plums and other stone fruit, they are ideal to prepare jams, jellies, and pies. These types are juicy and sweet, but they’re also solid, making them simple to chop or slice.
  • Clingstone plums: Clingstone fruits are often larger than freestone kinds, and when processing or consuming the fruit, part of the sweet flesh is wasted. Clingstone types are very suitable for sauces because of their increased juiciness, and they are always good to eat raw.
  • Semi-freestone plums: There are also semi-freestone varieties that have a mix of freestone and clingstone properties.

What can you do with a plum pit?

The seed is a by-product of plum processing which represents about 5% of the total weight of the fruit. It can be burned as fuel, used in the production of pellets, as well as in the production of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. It is a source of amygdalin (3.791 g kg−1), which is useful in the alternative therapy of cancer patients. The oil can be used as biofuel and the base of cosmetic products for dry and mature skin due to the high content of vitamin E. In addition to the oil, the proteins are commonly isolated from plum seeds (2).

The plum seeds have significant amounts of oil (about 30%) that contains various bioactive compounds, including tocols, phenolic compounds, proteins, and lipids. The main fatty acids were oleic (43.9–78.5%), linoleic (9.7–37%), and palmitic acid (4.9–7.3%) (3). 

Even though plum pits aren’t supposed to be eaten, here are some clever ways to reuse them instead of throwing them away:

  1. Plant plum seeds: A plum tree can be grown from the seed of a plum that you just ate. However, unless you eat the fruit of a wild plum or another true plum, the chances of the tree producing the same type of fruit are small. This is because most plums come from grafted trees. After you’ve eaten the plums, save a few of the seeds because not all of them are viable.

Here are the step to plant your first plum tree:

  • Remove the plum flesh from the pits by washing them under running water.
  • Dry the pits and store them in a plastic bag with a moist paper towel inside.
  • Refrigerate for six to eight weeks. Keep an eye on it in case it begins to grow earlier.
  • Take the pits out of the bag and discard them. Soak the seeds for four to five hours in a bowl of warm water.
  • In a bucket, combine equal parts sand and peat moss.
  • Fill a 4-inch pot with the planting mixture after placing a coffee filter in the bottom. Fill as many pots as the seeds you want to plant.
  • Cover the pits with the soil mixture and plant them 2 inches below the surface. 
  • Thoroughly water the pots until water drains out the bottom drainage holes.
  • Put the pots in a sunny place.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged; otherwise, the seeds will rot.
  • After the winter has gone, place the plum trees outside. If the weather remains chilly, transplant the small plum trees into 6-inch pots and keep them in a bright sunny location to continue to thrive.
  1. Enrich the soil: Plum pits can be used to enrich the soil in your garden with nutrients.
  2. Extract oil from pits: The oil in plum seeds is abundant (approximately 30%), and it contains a variety of bioactive substances such as tocols, phenolic compounds, proteins, and lipids.

The chemical composition of plum seed oil allows it to be employed in culinary applications, but it’s also an ideal base for dry and mature skin cosmetics (3).

Plum seed oil is obtained by cold extraction. It offers a wide range of uses and properties:

  • It’s ideal for treating dry, mature, and damaged skin.
  • It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
  • It’s used as a light, fast-absorbing scented base oil for body and face massage, and it helps to repair damaged skin and nails.
  • It’s used as a supplement to help the active substances absorb better.
  • It is advised for hair that is dry, damaged, and prone to splitting.
  • It is easy smeared on the skin without greasy traces
  • Can help the skin damaged by burns

Other FAQs about Prune plums that you may be interested in.

Can you eat plum skin?

Conclusion

In this essay, I answered the question: “Can you eat plum seeds” and I highlighted the main risks related to its consumption. I also provided clever methods to reuse plum pits instead of discarding them.

Please feel free to contact me for any questions related to this subject.

References

  1. Dogan, Murat, et al. Cyanide intoxication with encephalitis clinic: a case report. Eastern J Med, 2006, 11, 22-25.
  2. Savic, I.M., Savic Gajic, I.M. Optimization study on extraction of antioxidants from plum seeds (Prunus domestica L.). Optim Eng 22, 2021, 141–158. 
  3. Savic, Ivan, Ivana Savic Gajic, and Dragoljub Gajic. Physico-chemical properties and oxidative stability of fixed oil from plum seeds (Prunus domestica Linn.). Biomolecules, 2020, 10, 294.