The orange cherry tomato fruits look remarkably like the fruits of one of our most poisonous local weeds, the horse nettle. I can attest, from eating several tomatoes as I harvested, that the cherry tomatoes are delicious and non-toxic. Here are pictures of both fruits:
|Orange Cherry Tomatoes, picture source.|
|Horse Nettle Berries, picture source.|
|Tomato flowers, source.|
|Horse nettle flowers, source.|
Considerable prejudice against the Solanaceae built up in Europe, as most native nightshades are highly toxic. Our edible nightshades originated mostly in the New World. As tempting as it is to think of tomatoes as Italian and potatoes as Irish, these plants were imports to Europe after they were 'discovered' by European explorers. At first, Europeans were hesitant to eat the imported nightshades, but soon they incorporated them seamlessly into their cuisine. Remnants of nightshade phobia exist today, with some people avoiding them altogether. It is possible to be allergic to nightshades, which makes navigation of modern American cuisine very difficult - no French fries, no tomatoes, no hot sauce!
Toxic nightshades have a rainbow of alkaloids. Mandrakes and Jimson weed are grimly hallucinogenic in smaller doses and toxic in larger doses. Tobacco is addictive and stimulant, and the number one killer in the United States. Belladonna is likely the most acutely toxic plant of the Western Hemisphere, with only a few of the sweet-tasting berries necessary to kill a person. It has been used to make poison-tipped arrows. The alkaloids in these poisonous plants can be useful to medicine. For example, atropine, discovered in belladonna, is used to make the substance that dilates eyes in eye exams, to speed up the heart, and to counteract some pesticide poisonings.