It's a classic struggle: you're in the grocery store shopping for fruit and you can't decide whether you should buy the green bananas and patiently wait for them to ripen, or risk purchasing the yellow ones that will go bad in a few days. If you're like me and can't eat all of your fruit in a few days, you probably go for the green bananas and all of the other unripe fruits you love, trying to wait for them to brighten up.

Inevitably, however, you find yourself in a situation where you're craving fruit and it just isn't ready yet, so you wonder how bad it would really be to eat that unripe apple sitting on the counter. Who even sets the standards for ripeness though? And can you indulge yourself in a little unripe fruit now and then? The answer behind which fruits you actually should be eating unripened and which fruits may be dangerous when eaten too early may surprise you.


Under the "will probably cause serious bodily harm if eaten unripened" category you have your lychees, ackees, and Chinese lantern berries. 


lychee, rambutan, sweet
Sarah Fung

For decades, doctors in India wondered why children from Bihar were suffering from seizures, some even dying from their conditions, primarily during the monsoon season. Kids were staying out all day playing, and then rapidly falling victim to convulsions. 

The cause? The kids would pick tons of the sweet lychee fruit and eat them on an empty stomach. Doctors identified that the culprit was an amino acid found in lychees that causes a drop in levels of glucose in the blood. Unripe lychees have the amino acid in larger concentrations.

Unless you want to suffer from similar symptoms, it's best to eat your lychees in small quantities, fully ripe, and with a large meal.


The ackee is another fruit with potentially deadly consequences. Similar to the lychee, Jamaica's national fruit causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels if eaten before it's ready. This is due to unripe ackee releasing a chemical that prevents the body from releasing backup glucose in the liver. The glucose gets released regularly to maintain stable levels throughout the body hours after a meal, but without the release, blood sugar rapidly drops.

Fresh ackee has been banned in the US (read: it must be canned or frozen), but if you're brave enough to try the fruit abroad, make sure it is fully ripe and cooked

Chinese lantern berries

The Chinese lantern berry, also known as the winter cherry or bladder cherry, is a plant native to Asia and Southern Europe. The berry is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C. Unfortunately, this small berry has a dangerous side. If eaten unripe— when the husk is a bright red color—the berry can be poisonous. This is because the berry contains high amounts of solanine when unripe, a poison that causes gastrointestinal issues when consumed. 

In order to avoid the negative effects of this berry, make sure to consume it when the husk is a beige color such as the photo above.


Under the category of "probably safe to eat when unripe" are plums, apples, grapes, papayas, and bananas. 


juice, sweet, pasture, plum
Alexandra Tringali

Green plums are a delicacy in numerous countries. An American visiting Beirut discovered that the green plum tasted bland and bitter. Salt and sugar are often added so that we can reap the benefits of the highly nutritious fruit without hating the flavor. These plums contain high amounts of fiber, which your body needs in moderated quantities. 

Eat too much unripe plum, however, and you're in for bad stomach ache. Exercise caution when first trying these nutritious delicacies from the East. 


apple, juice, sweet
Kristine Mahan

Individuals in some regions of the world eat unripe apples during the summer months however, most Americans find them too sour and all together unpleasant to eat. If you do not wish to wait for your apples to ripen, poaching or frying an it is a great way to soften the apple as well as bring out its natural, sweet flavor.

Make sure you thoroughly poach or fry your apples, as unripe and uncooked apples can cause stomach discomfort due to an excess of ethylene gas.


juice, gooseberry, berry, pasture, grape
Naib Mian

Unripe grapes are sometimes used in Lebanese cuisine to make a sour salad dressing called verjuice. In Persian cuisine they are referred to as Ghooreh, and can be found in stores. Numerous recipes call for the use of the Ghooreh as the juice is perfectly safe to consume.

The sauce goes wonderfully with vegetable stews and can be made by crushing the grapes in a blender and using a sieve to remove the pulp. If the condiment is not used immediately it should be frozen and stored. 


Numerous nutrients such as carotenes, vitamins, and minerals make papaya a true super-fruit. It is generally safe to eat unripe and even has curative properties. The unripe fruit has been proven to contain higher amounts of the enzyme papain, which alleviates symptoms from various gastric disorders.

Unripe papaya has also been heard of helping in reducing wound inflammation and treating skin disorders. Raw papaya juice can supposedly help with an irregular menstrual cycle, and when combined with honey, it can help dissolve the mucous membrane in sore throats. 


juice, sweet, apple, banana
Jocelyn Hsu

Bananas are usually purchased before they're ready, as they are generally picked and sent to stores when they reach 75% of their desired ripeness. Contrary to popular belief, bananas can be eaten when they're still green. Green bananas may be harder to digest, but they also function as a prebiotic, meaning they help to cultivate good bacteria in the gut. 

Certain cells important to our digestive health eat fatty acids that can be found in unripe bananas. These cells are kept healthy by eating the fatty acids and allowing our bodies to conduct nutrient absorption more easily. Green bananas do negatively affect your ability to digest complex carbs, and so it is probably not the best idea to eat them frequently.

If you're tempted to eat a fruit early that's not on this list, be sure to do your research to make sure there aren't any unsavory side effects. Remember to stay away from unripe lychees, ackees, and Chinese lantern berries, but feel free to indulge in some unripe plums, apples, grapes, papayas, and bananas. You may find one of these becomes your new favorite delicacy or the perfect secret ingredient at your next dinner party.