i don’t make it to brookline very often (i hate taking the bus, particularly the 66), but i get my hair cut in coolidge corner, so i stop through there every other month or so. invariably, i end up picking up a few things (as many as i can carry, really) at trader joe’s on my way home: grape tomatoes, avocados, arugula if it looks good (they carry a different variety than most stores), juice, bread, clif bars, wine, frozen fruit and dumplings, and some combination of dried fruits and nuts.
i thrive on newness… i’m happiest when i’m experiencing a new culture, photographing a scene i’ve never seen (those words suck together – sorry), or trying a new food. so, this post marks the beginning of a category of posts that i’m calling (for now) TRYING (edit: i’ve since changed this to ‘Discoveries’). it was in the dried fruit and nut aisle that we find our latest candidate: apricot kernels.
now, this is sort of cheating, because i’m sure i bit into an apricot kernel as a kid (i remember that they’re bitter). i also remember learning that they aren’t to be eaten because they contain trace amounts of cyanide, and traces compound with traces until you’ve got enough to bake a death cake in your body (or so i thought). no bueno! you can imagine, i was *really* surprised to find a bag of apricot kernels in trader joe’s. i wondered if i was thinking of the wrong fruit.
i got home and took a picture (surprise!), then broke into the bag to sample them. they’re so cute! 5/8″ almonds! but they taste nothing like almonds. first of all, they’re softer than almonds… there’s crunch, but give. sweet, not at all bitter… with an interesting fermented – almost alcoholic – fruity flavor. if apricot kernel oil (which i’ve put on my skin before) was a botanical liqueur, it would taste like this.
oh right, the cyanide. wikipedia says this:
It is commonly known for containing amygdalin, a toxic cyanogenic glycoside, sometimes referred to as “vitamin B17”, which some believe can actually help in curing cancer, because the cyanide in the apricot seed does not actually harm the body.
of course, in the next paragraph, there are cases of cyanide poisoning referenced that occurred in clinical trials. aaaah, wikipedia. i searched some other sites and found that a lot of people do in fact believe that these little guys can fight/cure cancer. i had to search on “apricot kernels roast cyanide” before finding info on how roasting makes them safe. this from the straight dope, a site that for all i know could be run by someone like me (meaning, not based on scientific evidence):
Sub-lethal doses of cyanide gas are detoxified and passed out of the body rapidly, so it’s impossible to slowly poison yourself over a period of time. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning are excitement, convulsions, respiratory distress, and spasms. Another warning sign is death, which can occur without any of the other symptoms.
All of this, by the way, applies only to fresh seeds. Roasting the seeds will destroy the enzymes needed to produce the lethal reaction without appreciably affecting the mineral content of your munchies.
thanks, cecil adams. are you qualified to make such statements? i’ll pretend you are, ’cause i read this in a few other places as well. also, i like these things, and i want to go on snacking on them.
also found on this trip to trader joe’s: cloudy bay sauvignon blanc, one of my very favorite white wines (forgive the sucky cameraphone photo). i was introduced to this by jesse, the excellent bartender at cambridge 1 in harvard square. they haven’t had it there for a good while, and i’ve never been to another place that serves it; i look for it on every menu. so, i did something i rarely do: i bought two $26 bottles of wine. so worth it.
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