According to The Local, a retired couple from Heidelberg, Germany, was recently given a generous gift of home-grown zucchini from a neighbor’s garden. The couple cooked the zucchini into a stew, but the wife said the stew tasted surprisingly bitter. They did not think much of it until they started feeling sick not long after. The wife said she was sick at her stomach, but her husband became much more ill.
"His face had turned completely yellow," she said.
The couple was rushed to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed the couple as having been poisoned. The wife was well again after a few days, but her husband had eaten much more of the zucchini and died at the hospital.
Doctors say the couple was poisoned by cucurbitacins, which are toxins that occur naturally in pumpkins and gourds. They have generally been bred out of seeds intended for public consumption, but can still appear in fruit from older plants.
Curcurbitacin poisoning is rare, because the toxins make the plants taste so bitter people generally do not want to eat the affected plants. In this case, the woman said she only ate a little bit because the stew was so bitter, but her husband cleaned his plate.
"The stew did taste bitter," she said. "But we're used to bitter. We grow radishes in our garden, which also have this bitter taste."