If you have no kidney problems, you can eat all the star fruit you want – it has no effect on healthy kidneys. But if your kidney function is impaired, eating star fruit can be very dangerous, even deadly. Symptoms of “star fruit intoxication” include persistent hiccups, nausea, vomiting, agitation, insomnia, mental confusion and convulsions that occur within one to five hours of eating the fruit.
A quick check of Snopes revealed that yes, starfruit can be deadly. It apparently contains a neurotoxin that can be filtered out by normal kidneys, but is deadly to those whose kidneys are not functioning properly. I read this information aloud to my gathered family, and we all stood around the table staring at the fruit….which now somehow more resembled a ticking bomb rather than a fun dessert.
Youngest was the first to speak.
“Um, nobody’s kidneys are malfunctioning, right?”
“Certainly not that I know of,” I replied. But my mind was already spinning with the dreadful possibilities: What if one of us had a kidney problem and didn’t know it yet? What if it was a genetic kidney problem, and more than one of us dropped dead from eating adventurous produce? What if we were all sickened, and somebody needed a kidney transplant, and there was no one to donate a matching kidney to whoever was the sickest because we were all tainted by toxic fruit?
Yeah, I’m neurotic like that.
And apparently neurosis is genetic, whether or not imagined possible kidney problems are, because the whole family was eyeing that fruit with suspicion– as if it were one of those puffer fish that people play dinner roulette with at expensive Japanese restaurants. It looked innocent enough, but then again so did the fish dinner in that book, “Flight into Danger.”
“It would probably be Ok….” ventured Eldest, but his tone was uncertain.
Hubby crossed his arms and studied the fruit silently. He is not a fan of normal fruit, so potentially deadly fruit is clearly not high on his list of desserts. He had the look on his face that I’ve seen before when he’s debating the need to swoop in and rescue us from our own folly (yeah, I’ve seen that look more than once). Youngest, who was looking increasingly nervous, took a step back from the table. I could see the phobia list increase by one: Zombies, Chimpanzees, and Killer Fruit.
“It’s probably a lot of work for your kidneys to filter out a neurotoxin,” Middle child piped up. “I’d hate to make them go to all that extra work.”
“I hate to waste a perfectly good fruit,” I said. Bravely, I sliced the starfruit open, revealing its sweet fleshy center. Youngest was quickly fading back from the table, and everyone else exchanged nervous looks. The tension in the room was palpable. All eyes were on the cutting board, and the glistening fruit just sitting there double-dog-daring us to take a bite.
“We are so not going to eat this fruit, are we?”
It was a statement more than a question, and the mood in the kitchen changed the instant the words were out of my mouth. Everyone dissolved into fits of relieved giggles, which quickly turned to gut-ripping laughter. I grabbed one half of the offending fruit and bravely licked it, to the horrified squeals of my children. “No, mom! Don’t do it! It’s the Death Star!”
The Death Star tasted really good.
But not good enough to risk an early grave. And besides, even if nothing bad happened…the first symptom of your certain demise is…hiccups! Seriously? The chances of dying from starfruit are slim, but the chances of one of the five of us developing a case of the hiccups in the next day or so is quite high. Who wants to wonder if the cure for hiccups this time should be a glass of water drunk upside-down, or an emergency trip to ER?
I tossed the fruit in the trash. I guess our family is just not very adventurous with our fruit. But hey, the laughter was well worth the $3.65 that the Death Star cost.
And later on, when I came down to get a glass of water, I found Eldest at the trash can…zipping the offending produce into a plastic bag before burying it deeper into the rubbish. Because hey, if it’s potentially toxic for humans, who knows what a starfruit would do to a dog?