Cooking is what makes us human, according to Richard Wrangham, a British primatologist and professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University — among others. Using fire to tenderize tough cuts of meat, soften tubers, and break down fibrous vegetables relieved our early hominid ancestors of the necessity of spending time and energy chewing, and diverted the calories saved to the brain. “You can only afford to have a brain if you supply a lot of energy to it,” Wrangham said.
But another reason cooking is so important is that some food is toxic when consumed raw. Plants and berries use poisons to deter predators, and at least some foods we eat today need to be detoxified in order to make them edible. Though the Food and Drug Administration largely limits commercially grown varieties of plants to breeds low in toxicity, home cooks should still be aware of the handful of potentially dangerous foods lurking in their pantries, refrigerators, and grocery stores.
If you’re thinking of experimenting with a new type of raw ingredient, consult this list of seven foods that might poison you if prepared incorrectly.