Skip to Content

Are Chokecherries Edible? (Read This First!)

Sharing is caring!

Chokecherries, also known as Prunus Virginiana, is a native to the bird cherry species grown commonly in North America. The chokecherry plants are very adaptive to harsh temperature variations.

These fruits taste like most cherries, are mildly sweet, and can be used in producing jam, syrup, and fruit pies.

Are chokecherries edible?

Chokecherries are edible, but not as a whole fruit. The seed or the pit of chokecherries is toxic. This part of chokecherry contains amygdalin, which is converted, by our body, into cyanide. It is a harmful poison so, people eat the whole fruit and spit out the pit before swallowing it.

Are chokecherries edible for humans?

Yes, chokecherries are edible for humans. The fruit as a whole, however, is not edible. This is because the pit or the seed of chokecherries, like most cherries, are toxic.

Below is a list of the commonly found species of chokecherries and if they are edible for humans:

Schubert chokecherries:

Schubert chokecherries feature beautiful purple-red leaves throughout the summer and have a toxic pit and should be avoided. Apart from the pit, the fruit is edible and safe for humans.

At the same time, Schubert chokecherries are toxic for animals who have segmented stomachs, for example, cattle.

Black chokecherries:

Similar to the Schubert chokecherries, Black chokecherries are also edible for humans. The cherry pits, however, should be avoided as these contain cyanide.

Cyanide inhibits the enzyme cytochrome oxidase which is responsible for transporting oxygen to cells. Consuming pits in toxic levels will result in breathlessness and other severe, and often fatal, consequences.

Canadian red chokecherries:

Unlike the other cherries, Canadian Red chokecherries are considered to be poisonous when they are raw. Processing the cherry into fruit products such as jams, jellies, and syrups makes it edible and safe for humans.

Ornamental chokecherries:

Also known as European bird cherry trees, Ornamental chokecherries are considered to be harmless to birds but can be toxic to humans.

When the plants of these cherries are grown in high nitrogen-containing soil, are about to pollinate, or are damaged, they produce cyanide-producing compounds. These are found in the seeds of the cherries, leaves, and branches of the tree.

So, Ornamental chokecherries are not edible for humans without processing.

Wild chokecherries:

Wild chokecherries contain significantly more cyanide than most of the other species of the chokecherries. If eaten carefully without the pit of the cherry, the flesh is safe and edible for humans.

It should be noted that after a frost, the amount of cyanide in the pits may be greater. This is done by the plants as a sort of self-defense to protect themselves against browsing moose or cattle.

In conclusion, chokeberries are safe to eat, but not as a whole. Apart from the pit or seed of chokecherry, the flesh of the fruit is mildly sweet and non-toxic to humans.

In the case of children and animals, they are considered toxic as children or animals do not know to spit the pit out or avoid the pit and therefore, end up poisoning themselves.

Can chokecherries make you sick?

Yes, chokecherries can make you sick. The flesh of the fruit, the edible part, does not play any role in making a person sick. It is the pit, however, that makes a person or an animal sick.

Although chokecherries contain a harmful poison, cyanide, the amount present in the pit of chokecherry is quite insignificant. As a result, it takes a fairly large amount of chokecherry pits to make someone sick.

Some species are not affected by the pit at all and do not face any effects at all. On the other hand, eating a lot of chokecherry pits can make a person. Also, animals eating too many chokecherries can face several health issues and the pits may be fatal.

How poisonous are chokecherries?

Chokecherries are very poisonous. Although different species of chokecherries have different amounts of cyanide or amygdalin in the fruit pits, they are still dangerous to health. These may lead to severe consequences upon consumption in the wrong way.

Some chokecherry pits contain amygdalin which is converted to cyanide when consumed. This harmful toxin causes several health complications and can lead to a fatal end.

Other chokecherries carry cyanide directly in the pits and upon consumption, the effects take place rapidly.

Consuming about 4-5 chokeberry pits is enough to make a person sick and require emergency medical attention. If a person has consumed a single chokecherry pit, that person should immediately seek emergency medical attention.

In case of a pet or animal eating a chokecherry pit, the local veterinarian should be contacted as soon as possible.

What part of the chokecherry is poisonous?

The seed or pit of chokecherry is poisonous. Like most of the cherries and apricots out there, the flesh of the chokecherry fruit is harmless. It is the pit or the seed of the chokecherry that is harmful.

When the whole fruit is consumed, the pit containing amygdalin or cyanide is also consumed. Unlike cyanide, amygdalin is converted to cyanide in the body. Fruits containing cyanide directly start harming the body from the moment it is consumed and reaches the bloodstream.

While eating chokecherries it is advised to spit out the pit of the chokecherry to avoid poisoning yourself. Removing the pit is difficult as chokecherries are tiny.

Are chokecherry flowers edible?

No, chokecherry flowers are not edible. Most chokecherry trees develop cyanide or some sort of defensive compound to protect themselves. These compounds are present in the branches, leaves, and fruits as seeds or pits.

Chokecherry flowers grow into chokecherries. These flowers may be preserved by the plant from herbivores animals by making them poisonous. For this reason, chokecherry flowers may be toxic to humans and are not edible.

Are chokecherries good for you? What are the health benefits?

Yes, chokecherries are good for health. The dark-pigmented chokecherry pits contain a significant amount of oil and protein along with the poison, cyanide. Moreover, chokecherries strengthen the immune system.

Chokecherries are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanins. These compounds are well known for their ability to fight allergies, viruses, and specific carcinogens.

Additionally, chokecherries are also known to contain a great concentration of quinine acid. This acid can prevent urinary tract infections.

It also increases circulation levels, makes the blood vessels stronger, reduces the risk of heart and heart-related diseases, reduces high blood pressure, and also lowers diabetes levels.

Are chokecherries edible or poisonous for dogs, cats, chickens, horses, goats, and other animals?

Chokecherries are not edible and poisonous for most animals. After consuming chokecherries, a dog may immediately collapse on the ground. This will result from the eating of the pits of chokecherries that contain cyanide, a harmful poison for dogs.

Other than that, the dog may experience seizures, convulsions, tremors, hyperventilation, increased heartbeat. Red mucus membranes will also be observed.

Besides dogs, chokecherries are poisonous for cats too. If ingested in toxic amounts, the cat may have difficulty in breathing, have insufficient oxygen, and experience shock and tremors. Bright red gums may also be seen and, a fatal result may take place.

Unlike most animals, chokecherries are edible and safe for chickens to eat. The fleshy part of the fruit is safe to consume but, every other part of the chokecherry tree holds cyanide, released upon digestion.

Chickens peck at the chokecherries but leave the pit, and thus, do not end up poisoning themselves.

Horses, on the other hand, risk poisoning themselves by eating the pits. As horses chew on chokecherries, cyanide is released which then mixes with the bloodstream and spreads to different parts of the body. This results in health complications and consequences.

Most people advise against feeding chokecherries to goats. The wilted leaves of the plant are dangerous to a goat’s health as well as the cherries.

Although some goats may develop resistance to the toxins, it is better not to feed them any or make sure the goats do not have any access to chokecherry trees.

Chokecherries are harmless to birds. Birds usually eat the flesh of the fruits and leave the pits of the fruit and the plant leaves unattended. It leaves out the possibility of birds poisoning themselves with cyanide in the fruits and other parts of the plant.

What animals eat chokecherries?

Birds, rabbits, hares, rodents, and bears eat chokecherries. Since the chokecherries are not a threat to birds, they eat the fruits for their nutrients. The rabbits, hares, rodents, and bears all seek out these fruits for food.

During the early spring, the chokecherry flowers bloom. At that time, it serves as a chief source of nectar for butterflies, honeybees, and ants.

Final Thoughts

The flesh of chokecherries, except for the poisonous pits, is edible for humans and animals. Although these fruits are toxic and life-threatening, they have high nutrition value and are used in various food products. Additionally, chokecherry plants also serve as shelters for birds.

Sharing is caring!