Poisonous courgette warning

Poisonous courgette warning

If you’re thinking of planting courgettes this spring, and I’m sure many of us are, then have a read of my cautionary tale – though don’t let it put you off, I think it’s quite a rare occurrence judging from the doctors’ reaction.

I had been baffled by several of my meals being ruined by an awful, bitter taste – so bitter that a tiny bit left an awful taste in my mouth for quite some time afterwards. I wondered if the oil was rancid, I wondered what ingredient could possibly taste so awful.

Then finally, the culprit was revealed – the last ingredient was grated courgettes, and the dish went from lovely to appallingly bitter.

Loathe to throw out a big pan of food, I tried to eat around the courgettes and pick out the broad beans, but I had to admit, it tasted bitter beyond anything I wanted to eat, and eventually gave up. My partner refused to touch it.

I woke up around 3am with stomach cramps, diarrhoea, the same bitter taste in my mouth, and a pounding heart. I was quite worried, and my partner said I should look at the research he had done on bitter courgettes – it turns out they can contain a poison called Cucurbitacin E, which can develop if the plant is hybridised and/or water-stressed. What the research did not reveal though was how serious this was and what the consequences were.

I rang NHS Direct and told her I had poisoned myself with a courgette; she quite clearly thought I was barking, and asked if it was mouldy. I gave up, and rang the out-of-hours doctor and told him my symptoms matched everything for Cucurbitacin E poisoning, and was I going to die from this? He said he’d never heard of it and I’d better go to A and E.

I waited in A and E for several hours, feeling terrible, and eventually saw a doctor who thankfully took me seriously and went to look up this poison. He said I should be fine but should get some tests run in a week or so. I felt pretty ropey for the next few days but the tests were fine and I’m still here to tell the tale. There is a story of someone who died from this poison, though.

Who would have though it of an innocent-looking, usually quite bland courgette?

Update July 2020
Do not eat bitter tasting courgettes!
Fothergills say there is an issue with one of their varieties.
https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Product-Recall-MRF/
However this does not account for all reports and the issue can occur in any variety especially if the plant becomes stressed.

Comments about this page

  • Just had that happen to me. Been in bed for two days even though I didn’t swallow any of it.

    Emailed Mr Fothergill but no response yet.

    Thank you for putting out this warning as it explained a lot and stopped me panicking

    By Mrs A Bogle (09/06/2020)
  • just had exactly the same experience. Acutely bitter courgette of which i only ate a bit has led to acute stomach cramps and DIARRHOEA. Picked from. 2 plants..one had normal courgettes and the other bitter.

    By Jeremy Bugler (19/06/2020)
  • Had one today from our garden. Inedible. Really weird. I picked it young so maybe in self protection mode?
    Any research? Is it the whole plant that’s likely to be affected?

    By Tony Arnold (23/06/2020)
  • Just had a similar experience with a courgette from one of my plants. Decided to include it with a chicken stirfry so only used quite a small quantity. The first mouthful was awful and more bitter than anything I’d ever experienced before. I’d never heard of Cucurbitacin before I started reading up on courgette toxins. Apparently it can also exist in other squashes such as cucumber. Apparently if you lick the flesh prior to using you can detect the presence of Cucurbitacin. My wife was badly affected, me less so, thank goodness for having two bathrooms!
    I’m digging all of my cougettes up as I now never want to eat another one.

    By John Taft (01/07/2020)
  • Well, there’s quite a little group of us here this year. How strange.

    I have read more about it and it seems that if a courgette plant’s flower is pollinated by a wild curcurbit flower (or one of those decorative squashes) the seeds that result from this union will be the poisonous ones.

    So a packet of seed may contain one or more contaminated poisonous ones, or none at all.

    I have still had no response from Mr Fothergill. Did other people buy from this seed supplier or other brands?

    I must say, dishes containing courgettes just don’t have the same appeal any more.

    By Angela Bogle (03/07/2020)
  • Thank you for sharing this interesting thread. I garden in Whitstable, and have had the same problem with bitter courgettes this year. I have never heard of it before. I wonder if this is a new problem in the UK?

    By Jacqueline Page (04/07/2020)
  • July 1 2020 just experienced violent watery diarrhoea for days and onl y just discovered the cause because we have just had a meal containing more of the home growncourgettes and found them to be bitter. The first experience was very difficult to pinpoint the cause because I had tray baked several different veg together with chicken portions. I mistakenly blamed the chicken! I had also basted all the veg and chicken with the juice out of the veg complicating the matter. Have decided to carry on eating courgettes after testing them on cutting open by licking them. If they are bitter, then discard. I think my husband will take some persuading as he was in bed for three days over a week ago and is still not feeling too good.

    By Marian woodward (04/07/2020)
  • I made a courgette roulade with several courgettes which was very bitter and I threw it away. So I have now taken to tasting all my courgettes before use. I have found several bitter ones (not sure whether they are from the same plants) and have noticed they all have a faint but noticeable slightly acidic smell which is not present in the unaffected vegetable.

    By Rosemary Clark (04/07/2020)
  • My wife and I have just eaten the most horrendous courgette kindly give to us by a friend. Luckily the supermarket is now fully stocked with toilet roll. Legs crossed for a quiet night! Thank you all for your posts.

    By Mr Di Rhea (04/07/2020)
  • We have just had exactly the same problem from some Mr Fothergills courgette seeds. The courgettes were extremely bitter and inedible and just a mouthful or two led to a night of diarrhea for all three us. We had also never heard of this before despite my parents being keen gardeners!

    By Anne (05/07/2020)
  • Had exactly the same experience with courgette Fothergill seeds. A very unpleasant experience as previously described by other comments. Went through 2 toilet rolls in 6 hours.

    By Christine Horton (05/07/2020)
  • Exactly the same for me. I ate a bit of a courgette yesterday that tasted very bitter. Several hours later I had terrible DIARRHOEA and cramps. I’ve eaten from other plants grown at the same time with no problem. Mr fothergill’s zucchini seeds.

    By Linda Coe (06/07/2020)
  • Hi I had this problem with just one of my plants , it made my father quite poorly , so has I have 8 plants I decided to number them and check each courgette as it came off by chopping a piece of it off and tasting it Thankfully it was the only one rogue plant from a packet of seeds dated 2020 and beyond .on the bonfire it has gone !

    By Jayne Hulme (06/07/2020)
  • The same thing happened to me and my parents last week. We had some courgettes from Mr Fothergills seeds and they were so bitter – completely inedible. Only 1-2 small slices each led to a night of diarrhea and stomach cramps. We had never heard of Cucurbitacin and it’s effects before, despite my parents being keen gardeners!

    By Anne S (07/07/2020)
  • Omg. Me too!! I never knew it was a thing.

    By S (08/07/2020)
  • Wow I am glad not to be alone here. My mum emailed Mr Fothergills and they sent a very apologetic response and explained that they have identified a rogue batch of seeds this year and are recalling the remaining that are on sale.

    By Anne S (09/07/2020)
  • Ah – put tiny bit of pencil size courgette in bean n spud soup last night – v small so didnt taste anything odd – stomach upset this am – am coeliac so was trying to think if had eaten anything wrong. Will blame the courgette.

    By Mary (09/07/2020)
  • Update: XXXXXXXXXX have replied to one plot holder talking about a ‘rogue batch’ of seeds.

    I have had a reply to my email to XXXXXXXXX. It goes as follows:

    Thank you for your email and we are very sorry that you have had this problem with one of our courgette varieties. Please accept our sincere apologies, we are so sorry for the discomfort you have suffered.

    The occurrence of this problem is extremely rare. It can come from issues in the seed production cycle and is untraceable before growing out again for harvest. We have traced the problem to one particular lot of seed which comes from a grower with the most meticulous growing and husbandry routines.

    The naturally occurring cucurbitacins normally exist in very small amounts but genetic issues in the production cycle very occasionally deliver larger amounts into the seed which cause the bitter flavour. As we’ve said, it’s impossible to test for in the seed itself and we have never had a batch of seed like this in our history.

    Thank you for bringing the issue to our attention. We fully understand that you won’t take courgettes from that plant but it could be other plants are unaffected. You could taste them raw and, if bitter, discard them and that plant.

    We are more than happy to send another variety, Courgette Firenze, as a replacement. Please confirm if you would like to go ahead with this.

    Please be assured that we take every precaution to maintain the quality of our seed stock. In this instance we are withdrawing the rogue batch from all sales outlets and in-house stocks. Thank you so much for being in touch which is enabling us to take corrective action.

    If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Kind regards,

    Customer Services.

    By Mark Carroll (09/07/2020)
  • Thank you so much for sharing this information and allowing it to be accessed beyond Brighton and Hove. My seeds were also from Mr Fothergill.
    Jacqueline Page
    Whitstable

    By Jacqueline Page (09/07/2020)
  • Hi, Can you tell me is it just one variety? What Variety did you have?

    By Norman Robinson (09/07/2020)
  • Hello everyone and I am the social media manager for Mr Fothergill’s. As posted by Mark Carroll above, we have recently become aware of this issue with a small number of people being in touch with our Customer Services team about bitter courgettes. The variety involved is Courgette Zucchini with batch code I printed on the back of the packet next to the barcode. We have withdrawn all stocks of this seed immediately, recalled all stocks in garden centres and are currently contacting customers we know to have bought this variety by mail order.

    We are very sorry to hear of the discomfort suffered by anyone who has an affected plant, though there seem to be only some rogue seeds amongst the batch, with some packets causing no problem at all. As pointed out in this thread already, it has likely resulted from an inadvertent cross-pollination in the plants that produced the seeds. We would urge anyone who has a packet of these seeds to get in contact with us by email on debbie.porter@mr-fothergills.co.uk

    If you have grown a plant from these seeds, you can taste-test the fruits before consuming them by cutting them a licking the flesh. Affected fruits are extremely bitter and an indication you should destroy the plant. Please do not consume the fruits of any plants that have produced bitter tasting fruits.

    Thank you for your patience and understanding.

    By Debbie Porter (09/07/2020)
  • Thank you gardening friends for sharing the info.My wife told everybody that I was trying to poison her!
    It doesn’t take much to really upset your stomach.
    Thanks again for saving my marriage .

    By david dorrell (09/07/2020)
  • Hi Everyone,
    Just come across this after a Google search and it seems we’re having the same problem over here in Wiltshire! So far 2 courgettes from one plant have been horrendously bitter, fortunately we didn’t ruin too much food, and my partner only suffered a mild case of an upset stomach for a day or so. I have a stronger constitution, so didn’t suffer really, lucky me! So, I’m going to pull that plant up, and hope that the other 4 plants I have aren’t affected. Will be getting in touch with Fothergills tonight!
    Hope you all aren’t too badly affected!

    By Clive Archer (09/07/2020)
  • Luckily I had kept my Courgette Zucchini empty seed packet – mine are Kings Seeds – does anyone know if these would have the same problem ?

    By Judith Sheppard (09/07/2020)
  • Thanks to everyone for posting your experiences of bitter courgettes. We’ve been courgette growers here in Rickmansworth for years and prior to the last few days had never tasted a bitter courgette let alone heard of cucurbitacin. Like many of you, we didn’t know what the problem was at first as we’d grated the courgette along with other veg, but tried a slice from a freshly picked one today which was awful. We also noticed a strange smell, a bit like cat pee. Our seeds were also Mr Forthergill’s so we’ve got in touch with them. Now all we need to do is identify which plants are affected. Not looking forward to doing the taste test though!

    By Yvette E (09/07/2020)
  • Yup just threw away a courgette plant from my plot the plant was grown from seeds I kept from last year…. must have crossed with something else… awful taste… luckily too awful to eat so we weren’t ill maybe the seeds you all bought were also a cross variety?

    By Joules (09/07/2020)
  • I had this experience a few years ago with a variegated courgette- (Romanescu?) after a hot dry period. Family & friends teased me at the time but my body told me very clearly I’d been poisoned. I couldn’t look a courgette in the eye for several months. Now I’m about to harvest my first crop of the year- after a hot dry spring- and will be cautious! Though I’ve switched to Black Beauty only, just to feel a bit reassured…..

    By Sue Gwilliam (10/07/2020)
  • Happened to us too about five years ago. The taste was horrendous. Now always check before cooking! Glad to find out what it was. Thank you

    By Lu Wray (10/07/2020)
  • Hi Debbie from Fothergills
    Thanks for posting. Can you please share here a link to the public statement that has been made please. Can’t find anything on Fothergills website or social media.

    By Bagpus (10/07/2020)
  • Yes same story. I grew courgettes from Fothergill’s and swallowed very bitter produce.

    I am still suffering after 3 days and a very bitter taste remains. What a horrible poison. You think growing your own would be safe.

    By Ann (10/07/2020)
  • This happened to me from one single “rogue” courgette that I had grown about 10 years ago. The seed was from Kings not Fothergills, so I guess these rogue seeds could come from any seed merchant. We did not swallow any of the meal because it was so bitter so had no stomach upset. Haven’t had any trouble since. I had often wondered why the bitterness so thanks for this info.

    By Rick Seccombe, New Mills Allotment & Gardening Society (10/07/2020)
  • Apart from the bitter taste, were they very hard as well?
    Thank you all for raising this issue and informing the rest of us, it’s very helpful.
    And thank you for the seed supplier for taking this seriously and acting on it promptly.

    By Mrs Pearson (10/07/2020)
  • Is there any way you can tell before you eat??

    By Helen (10/07/2020)
  • This is quite scary! Have six courgette plants and three marrows outside.

    Regarding Mr. Fothergills, while doing some research into this that supplier name also popped up in a Gardeners World thread from 2014 about courgette poisoning.

    While six years is a long time ago it’s not ideal to see one of the only threads on this topic while googling and have their name pop up again.

    By Macra (10/07/2020)
  • Hi everyone, thanks for posting all this information as I have had a similar experience. I live in Herefordshire and have grown a superb looking crop of courgettes this year from seeds, courgette zucchini, which I bought from Wilko. Having cooked one and eaten a tiny bit I became violently ill and reported it to Defra who told me that it was an extremely rare thing to happen and told me to destroy the plants by putting them in double bags and taking them to landfill, Don’t think I will grow them again!!
    Thanks for all your info
    Gill

    By Gill Munro (10/07/2020)
  • Hello Bagpuss, and hello again everyone else.

    Here is the statement on our website: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Product-Recall-MRF/

    It’s also on our social channels and on a range of threads on other people’s timelines where we have been responding to clarify, where we have found them. We appreciate there might be places such as private access FB groups where this information might not have reached yet though.

    If there is anywhere you think I need to go in and comment on behalf of Mr Fothergill’s because the discussion is running unchecked, then please let me know and am happy to go and talk with people in other places. Otherwise, please feel free to share this to any networks or private gardening groups you might also be in.

    Thanks all

    By Debbie Porter (10/07/2020)
  • Just had courgette in a stir fry and I thought the oil was off or something. Quite a bitter take. So we await the stomach cramps?

    By Sheila Handley (10/07/2020)
  • Wow…mine are Fothergills and eaten about 10 courgettes with no ill effects but am gonna taste them in future before using. Thanks for the thread and the heads up. Scary stuff…

    By Geoff (10/07/2020)
  • Are the dodgy courgettes green, or another colour?

    By Chris Peacock (10/07/2020)
  • I had the same problem about 8 years ago in Portugal. The seeds wera colected from a big courguete from my father in law farm so, in this case, it was really aleatory.

    By Ana (10/07/2020)
  • Were the offending courgettes the green variety pictured at the top?

    By M (10/07/2020)
  • Mr fothergills announces recall of courgette seeds
    https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Product-Recall-MRF/#.XwjgGShKhPY

    By MR R DEE (10/07/2020)
  • Same story here. I haven’t emailed Me. F’s yet though. Did anyone get a reply?

    By Gdwr (10/07/2020)
  • I’ve just spent a week evening extremely poorly from eating my home grown courgettes. When I discovered some seeds had been recalled, I went to check mine, which are actually Unwins seeds 🤷‍♀️ Maybe they share they same supplier or something, but don’t think it’s just Fothergill seeds! I can guarantee I will never eat courgette again, thank god my kids didn’t eat it too!

    By Mrs Baxter (11/07/2020)
  • I’ve just spent a week extremely poorly from eating my home grown courgettes. When I discovered some seeds had been recalled, I went to check mine, which are actually Unwins seeds 🤷‍♀️ Maybe they share they same supplier or something, but don’t think it’s just Fothergill seeds! I can guarantee I will never eat courgette again, thank god my kids didn’t eat it too!

    By Mrs Baxter (11/07/2020)
  • Similar experience for my husband and me from home grown courgettes of which I was so proud. The bitter taste was repulsive and we can have eaten only a minute amount. Both up all night. I cannot remember feeling so wretched from food – the stomach cramps were appalling. Can’t risk it happening again, especially not with vegetarian kids around who will incorporate them into recipes. It’s good to know the reason and the name of the poison, but I can’t identify the rogue plants so I will be digging them ALL up. My love affair with courgettes is definitely over.

    By Sarah, Oxford (11/07/2020)
  • Does anyone know if such rogue courgettes have been found on sale in supermarkets? I had the most appalling stomach upset I’ve ever had the other week & threw away most of a probably innocent chicken.

    By Debby A Robinson (11/07/2020)
  • I suffered from this last year and had the worst stomach cramps ever – so bad that I went to the GP. I felt as if I had been poisoned – which of course I had.
    Not only can you taste the bitterness, but those courgettes affected had a strong bitter toxic smell. I went round my Allotment site telling everyone and very interestingly most of the women could smell the bitterness but not many of the men, so don’t rely on just the smell as you may be one of the people who can’t recognise it!

    By Kate (11/07/2020)
  • Thanks for this thread. My parents also thought I was trying to poison them. Mine were grown from Thompson & Morgan seeds so the batch / problem is not just Fothergills. Just got to identify the rogue plant now.

    By Andy, Bedford (11/07/2020)
  • not over impressed with the fothergill response but so grateful for all the other comments and the info

    By paul hand (11/07/2020)
  • Just found this thread as my husband and I have just cooked our first courgette of the year from our patch and it was absolutely vile. I knew straight away it was poison of some description. I now know what it is and we have phoned 111 for some advice as terrified. Just waiting to see what happens to us now, we are drinking lots of water to try to flush the toxins out.

    By Gemma and Toby (11/07/2020)
  • I was poisoned by this about 16 yrs ago- 2004/5? I normally have a stomach of iron….it was horrendous and I couldn’t even talk about it for years without heaving!

    is very obvious when you eat it- bitter and cheesy, like parmesan cheese.

    I have eaten courgette with no problem for the past 10 years, watch iut for the flowers.

    By Beca Beeby (11/07/2020)
  • Same experience last year very sick for 3 days after tiny mouthful.
    Apparently the plant can become stressed if not watered enough and produces large amounts of the cucurbitacin E Toxic squash syndrome and can happen to cucumbers squash etc.

    By Diana (12/07/2020)
  • Yes we have the same problem, this year’s Fothergills seeds as identified. We are in Bedford. I have a slightly upset stomach this morning, I think we’ve got away lightly through spitting out the offending mouthful. Also threw away the whole dinner. Never heard of this so thank you to this forum. Have already eaten some lovely courgettes, so now we have to identify the offending plant from the three, and alert our daughter to whom we gave a plant, we don’t want her poisoning her young children! Have emailed Fothergills…..

    By Rosemary Harris (12/07/2020)
  • Thanks for all these comments. I am a big courgette fan so devastating news. Has anyone experienced this with the yellow varieties, as I mainly grow those?

    By David Edwards (12/07/2020)
  • Same has happened to me and members of family. Roasted courgettes with other vegetables and not only was the courgettes very bitter it tainted all the other veg. Hadn’t heard of this before so still managed to eat some of the veg, regretfully. Was very ill all night and still suffering after 3 days. Our seed came from Wilcos but their own labelled packet wouldn’t have been their own seed I imagine. Now will be checking every courgette.

    By Caroline (12/07/2020)
  • I live in Herefordshire and have had the same experience as all of you but I bought my seeds from Wilko. I rang Defra who said I should destroy all my plants by double bagging them and taking the to a landfill site. They said they had not heard of it happening before but when they researched it the man said there had been a case in Germany when a man had died after eating a stew made from toxic courgettes. Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences, I was beginning to think I was going mad!!

    By Gill Munro (12/07/2020)
  • I have 7 corgette plants growing at the moment – just flowering. I have no idea what what variety they were or what company as have thrown away to packaging.what should I do they look normal to me.

    By John (12/07/2020)
  • Been ill with sickness and severe diarrhea for 24 hours now after chewing one small piece of bitter courgette. The taste is still in my mouth. Point of interest…grown in pots in polytunnel in Lincolnshire.
    I don’t know what to do now with myself.

    By Norma Barr (12/07/2020)
  • My husband and I have just had the experience of very bitter courgettes, I ate a little and he spat his out. We’re now awaiting the evenings events with trepidation!!

    By Liz Moriarty (12/07/2020)
  • So pleased to hear we’re not the only ones being clamped to the pan! Was so excited about my first harvest of courgettes and we popped them on the bbq as part of a kebab – it was vile! So bitter. Just waiting to hear if I’ve poisoned my friend as she came up to eat with us last night – also my daughter she cooked up a different courgette picked from a different plant and didn’t taste the bitterness so will see if she has been poisoned when she wakes up! These plants were grown in Derbyshire from seeds but not sure where from. Thanks for info everyone- am off to lick my other courgettes . Happy days

    By Lulu Caudwell (13/07/2020)
  • Very much the same experience as the other comments. One slight difference – the courgettes that made us ill were grown from the courgettes that I grew last year. I saved the seeds from one or two courgettes at the end of the season, dried them and kept them to sow for this year’s crop.
    I have considered letting my GP know, in case he and his fellow GPs are unaware of this menace. has anyone got thoughts on that? Tony from Goring. 13.7.2020.

    By Tony from Goring. 13.7.2020. (13/07/2020)
  • Partner was severely ill last week… courgettes were in the curry I made… I can’t eat courgettes so it’s the only thing he had different to me…. he thought he had the noro virus… high temperature. .. sickness and diarrhea for 3 days… ours were fothergill but no longer have the packet. Curry possibly masked the bitterness.

    By Sarah cole (13/07/2020)
  • I have had the same problem but ended up in hospital at 2am a week ago. Horrendous – never been so ill. My husband also had the poisoning but not so badly. We love courgettes and have an enormous crop but a bit put off eating them!!!

    By Catherine Mcnab (13/07/2020)
  • Pleased to finally have the this food mystery solved.
    Meal 1. Cooked a bolognese with homegrown courgettes, tasted so bitter and metallic we couldn’t eat it, blamed it on the Le Crueset pan, could the enamel be reacting with the tomatoes????
    Meal 2. Bean Chilli with homegrown courgettes, again very bitter taste, had to throw the whole lot out – no dinner! Started to blame the homegrown garlic?
    Meal 3. Spanish Omelette with fried homegrown courgettes, awful taste …..it’s the courgettes!!!!! A bit nervous about getting a bad stomach, but so pleased I didn’t send the Le Crueset pan back under lifetime guarantee!!!!

    By Anne (13/07/2020)
  • Glad I found this feed. My courgettes came from a supermarket. Thought the soup I had made tasted on the bitter side. Had no idea that courgette poisoning existed. Thank goodness there is no shortage of toilet roll now. Horrible cramps, racing heart, bitter taste in mouth and copious trips to the w.c. Best wishes to everyone else who has suffered.

    By Jane (13/07/2020)
  • I am just getting over 2 days of vomiting and the runs was had courgette bake, I felt really I’ll headache sore throat and vomiting , luckily I M getting better now . By the way my courgettes were supposed to bd from an organic grower ???

    By Dee (13/07/2020)
  • I have had two dinners ruined this week by two extremely bitter courgettes! I couldn’t work out what it was from the first dinner, the whole plate tasted the same, but the second dinner courgette was the only same ingredient. A friend gave to me from her allotment so I have let her know. I will certainly taste before ever cooking with them again.

    By Michelle (13/07/2020)
  • We live in Cheltenham and I grew several wonderful courgette plants from the Fothergill’s seeds. One plant is a demon – the courgettes tasted foul and we were up all night with diarrhoea despite having eaten only a mouthful. The only way to test is to try a tiny sliver before cooking. Make sure you don’t swallow if it’s bitter, and rinse your mouth out well with water afterwards. The other plants from the same seed batch are fine. I contacted Fothergill’s two weeks ago and they’ve just replied confirming they’ve withdrawn that batch, but saying it’s ‘extremely rare’ and not letting on that they’d had complaints from anyone else.

    By Anna Oxbury (14/07/2020)
  • I have to say that I find Fothergill’s statement on withdrawing its toxic courgette seed inadequate. Without laying it on, I lost 12 pounds in weight and a lot of blood from eating one of their poisonous courgettes. Not ideal at any age, including 79.
    The offer of a replacement packet of seed in this context is patronising. While I am not at all interested in any sort of injury claim, I would have thought that the least Fothergills could do is to promise customers it won’t be taking courgette seed from this supplier again.

    By Jeremy Bugler (14/07/2020)
  • Oh no, I’ve gone from taking a lovely Instagram picture of my stuffed courgette flowers to being really worried what’s going to happen soon! One courgette (also baked) was horribly bitter and my boyfriend ate a bit and then I tasted it and spat it out and rinsed my mouth. Now I need to work out which plant it came from. Our seeds are Mr Fothergills and they’re batch J instead of I, so it’s not only happening in the batch identified. That said, I had no idea about this so another lesson learned.

    By Angela (14/07/2020)
  • Thank you again, BHAF, for publishing all these comments and making them accessible to others. I wrote to Mr Fotergill’s and received what seems to be a pro forma reply offering me a replacement packet of seeds. The reply made no reference to the fact that I suggested they put a warning on their courgette packets to help gardeners identify the culprit if this problem should occur again. I consider their response completely satisfactory.
    Jacqueline Page

    By Jacqueline Page (14/07/2020)
  • We had exactly the same problem on 2nd July. I ate 1 slice and it was so bitter. I suffered with it for a number of days and still suffering stomach cramps . My husband has destroyed the offending plant and we hope the others are ok so we’ll taste a bit for bitterness in future. TBH it’s put me off courgettes – don’t think I’ll trust them for a while

    By Marilyn (14/07/2020)
  • Exactly what happened to me last year… 2 urgent visits to the GP… Very seriously unwell.. Everything went ‘straight through me’ causing severe dehydration. Thought my time had come!
    Surely seed supplier is culpable? I lost half a stone in weight… Very unfunny.
    DO NOT TOUCH IF ANY HINT OF BITTERNESS.

    By Mr R G MOTTRAM (14/07/2020)
  • My wife and I (aged 81) suffered liquid diarrhoea and stomach pains a few hours after encountering a bitter courgette that we had grown from Unwins seeds. We recovered within 24 hours and feel lucky to have done so. We ate very little but the courgette had contaminated the other veg in a roasting tin. So glad I tried the internet to see if this was a known poison. May have to ditch the whole crop to be on the safe side.

    By David (15/07/2020)
  • How do you know if it is bad before you eat it?

    By Carolyn (15/07/2020)
  • I made a soup today, with 1kg home grown courgettes, 500g potatoes, some cheese and a bunch of spring onions. I swallowed one spoon of it. It was very bitter. Now I wait to see what is going to happen next! My seeds were bought at Wilko’s, this year.

    By Mel (15/07/2020)
  • We had just the same problem. I tasted the desperately bitter grated courgette in a salad. Luckily I didn’t swallow it, I spat it out and rinsed and rinsed my mouth. My mouth kept going weirdly dry for hours afterwards even though I didn’t swallow any. We identified the plant and burned it. The other plants seem fine. However, we are cutting each courgette and licking them before cooking.

    By Maggie from Sarratt. (15/07/2020)
  • I have not eaten any of mine yet as they are very fat and hard where they come off the stalk and then go thin, one went mouldy, I have grown dozens of courgetts in France but never had this before, I am now in uk any ideas Bill

    By william hughes (16/07/2020)
  • Is the poison present in both raw and cooked courgettes or do do frying, grilling, or baking, get rid of it?

    By Michael R Goodman (16/07/2020)
  • I notified the Food Standards Agency about Mr Fothergill’s selling of poisonous courgette seed. They in turn notified West Suffolk Council who have now emailed me saying that Mr F’s have reported the issue to all relevant bodies and is taking action to withdraw the product. That much we know. But West Suffolk Council also say “We have not had any other reports relating to this matter” and that they will not be taking any other action for the moment.
    If you feel that being made seriously ill is important, you might like to email Julie.Winfield@westsuffolk.gov.uk and let her know I am not the only one to get ill in this incident.

    By Jeremy Bugler (17/07/2020)
  • >>>How do you know if it is bad before you eat it?

    They taste bitter!

    By Mark Carroll (17/07/2020)
  • Yup, me too. Bought the Mr Fothergill’s seeds from RHS WIsley in March. Some of the plants seem OK but haven’t yet identified which ones are producing the poisonous courgettes. Rather than getting involved with lick tests I think I’ll just ditch the lot. Somehow I just don’t fancy courgettes anymore.

    By Hugh (17/07/2020)
  • I grew 4 Kings seeds Zucchini this year and not tried them yet but the crop has been the poorest I’ve ever had, only 3 small fruits but masses of leaf and flowers. Reading these reports I’m not even going to test them, throw them away and grow something else. Such a pity as I love courgettes. I rang Kings who said taste a small amount before using, but didn’t say if their seed was affected. I’m wondering if the affected seed has been imported or did the hot dry weather at the start of lockdown affect the plants. All my crops are poor this years though the plants look very healthy.

    By Brenda Scourfield (18/07/2020)
  • Michael R Goodman, baking, frying or grilling doesn’t get rid of the poison. The contributors above all became ill after eating cooked food that included this vegetable.

    By Gill Hearn (19/07/2020)
  • Have just had the same experience. Think my seeds were from T & M though but lost the packet. Courgettes were round though and not what I thought I’d grown. Bit into one to taste thinking it might be a melon from a rogue seed. So bitter I spat out immediately and the taste is still in my mouth. Most bitter taste I have ever experienced. Surely it’s only half the solution to recall seeds, gardeners all over the country are about to start harvesting tons of home grown courgettes in good faith. This problem needs to be made much more widely known.! A home grown courgette is such a lovely thing and so many around just now! We need some warnings so people can at least take care and check before eating!

    By Jane (19/07/2020)
  • My seeds were from Wilko,s.I can not believe one small courgette could taste so bitter. It took a couple of spoiled meals before finding the culprit. We live on a windy hillside in Staffordshire so I thought the cold had affected them.

    By Frank Bridgett (20/07/2020)
  • Had exactly the same problem. Unwell over the weekend after eating Courgettes from our garden on Friday. Now digging up all plants and destroying. Glad we have more than one loo!!

    By Chris Buffrey (20/07/2020)
  • Thank goodness for this post. I was so confused why the dinner that I had lovingly prepared from home grown veg tasted so bitter and vile! We await with trepidation to see what ill effects we might suffer…

    By Lisa (20/07/2020)
  • Oh my goodness I can’t believe I’m reading this. My family thought I was mad as I kept blaming the courgette for our terrible stomach ache and diarrhoea. I made a courgette cake and ours doesn’t taste bitter but it’s made us all sick . I’m gutted it’s the only thing growing on my allotment!

    By Helena (20/07/2020)
  • My wife and I were very ill having had a meal at home we didn’t know that it was the courgettes from Fotherill’s seeds. I had to call an ambulance at 4 o’clock in the morning as my wife collapsed 4 times and was very ill. This brought on my wife’s Diverticulitis and a few days later she was very ill again and had to call the GP.
    As I didn’t know it was the courgettes I had some more this week and was again very ill. I KNOW NOW !!!!!!!

    By Trevor Grant (21/07/2020)
  • I was ill for four days after eating beautiful sweet young non stressed courgettes. I did not know it was courgette and ate my courgetteS before and – When recovered – after The days of vile cramps and diarrhoea. So it was one of five plants that was responsible. No way to work out which plant without risking poisoning again. Destroyed all plants. Will not ever risk courgettes again. Don’t blame the grower please. They don’t have to be bitter to be poisonous it has to be bad rogue seed.

    By Sally (21/07/2020)
  • Me and my husband both ate half each of a courgette from our neighbour who leaves his excess crops for people to help themselves. I fried it, it didn’t taste bitter to me. Really enjoyed it in fact. Today however I have felt nauseous all day and had urgent trips to the bathroom from the other end. My husband is the same. The thought of eating another courgette really turns my stomach.

    By Angela (22/07/2020)
  • Update: the trading standards officer handling this problem at Mr Fothergill’s is Nigel Howlet who can be reached at tradingstandards@suffolk.co.uk.
    I am not sure who is investigating Unwins Seeds of Wilko.

    By Jeremy Bugler (23/07/2020)
  • Guess what, my wife and I have had severe diarrhoea since the early hours of this morning, did stuffed courgettes last night first mouthful was worst bitter taste I’ve ever experienced, spat most of it out, still got the back taste, will look up supplier of seeds later, we are a one toilet family so it’s not good. I’m in my sixties, gardened all my life, as did my father and grandfather. Never heard of this toxin before. Only found out about it by googling. Got 6 courgette plants in the garden, they will be coming up later. Also found my cucumbers in greenhouse are very bitter, even though I’ve been removing male flowers. They are going on the compost heap too. And I’ve been watering all plants daily. What an eye opener.

    By Phil Crool (25/07/2020)
  • My husband and I have both just spent the whole night being ill with severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps and are still feeling very unwell. Included in the meal we started but did not finish as it was so bitter were my home grown courgettes. My seeds were Mr Fothergill’s Zucchini purchased this year. Will be destroying all my plants after this experience.

    By Barbara Stevens (25/07/2020)
  • I have used a packet of Courgette (Zucchini) that came with a gardening magazine at the beginning of Lock Down, else I would have bought my usual variety but couldn’t get them due to the mass panic buying. These plants have not developed in a way that I am used to with Courgette, plus the fruits are more squash and small marrow like. The taste is bitter and rancid fortunately after reading the comments above I am pleased that we have thrown the fruits in the compost heap.
    The seeds are from Thompson and Morgan, (I note, T&M are not supplying this variety any more).
    I am now going to spend the afternoon pulling up the plants which have been a nightmare spreading though the garden.
    I will also be contacting the magazine that provided the seeds to see if they have had any feedback from other growers.
    It is quite concerning to have read the comments about Mr F’s problem but I do not think they are alone.

    By Jane Howe (25/07/2020)
  • Just had a bitter courgette think it was fothergill seeds

    By Suzanne wood (26/07/2020)
  • This happened to my 87 year old mother last week and she was violently ill and in agony and had to call 999 in the middle of the night. A week later and she’s still not back to normal. She purchased the seeds mentioned above from a garden centre in St. Albans. On her behalf I have emailed Fothergill today. I await their response.

    By Richard Allen (27/07/2020)
  • We bought our seeds in Inverness and were very proud of the results. Thankfully I decided to taste one piece before it all went in front of the family, roasted last night…..never experienced a taste like it; can’t even describe or compare the flavour so wouldn’t let the kids even try, despite their curiosity.
    Found this thread online and sure enough, our packet was the infamous ‘I’ batch…..
    Drank some decent single malt and braced myself for the night ahead. Mercifully only mild symptoms overnight unlike some of the unfortunates listed here, so my key deduction is to drink more whisky: the answer to many of life’s problems.
    Mr Fothergills were at least prompt in replying. I’m afraid I’m not going to taste test our entire crop – they’re destined for the brown bin.

    Thank you B&HAF for posting. As a former resident I’m very grateful.

    By David Robertson (28/07/2020)
  • Same here, roasted my corgettes in the oven, ate a tiny bit, so bitter and disgusting, hubby spat his out. I didn’t eat any more but at 1 am the stomach cramps started, 3 hours later my tummy started to settle. My corgette plant is in the bin.
    Linda (Bradford)

    By Linda Norton (29/07/2020)
  • I just cooked myself a pasta meal including courgettes. Ate a small piece of raw courgette just before serving my meal. It was disgustingly bitter, spat it all out. Then discovered that the whole meal was tainted and threw it all away. Most sad that it also included some of my precious broad beans!

    My seeds were Fothergill, but I think this was the first courgette from a plant that could have been stressed. I have had delicious courgettes from another plant. Now praying that I do not get sick from the buts I tasted and spat out.

    By Penny Sills (29/07/2020)
  • My family and I have just sat down to dinner with some home grown courgettes from a Fothergills packet and they are absolutely inedible! I have never tasted anything so disgusting in my whole life. It actually tastes like the food has been poisoned. Interestingly these seeds were from a different batch to the “I” batch but in 40 years of courgettes in the same garden I have never encountered this problem before… and it is surely no coincidence?
    We have had to throw away our whole dinner because everything that was next to the courgettes on the plate tastes the same.
    I am off to bed in trepidation as to what the night has in store…

    By Emma Haselden (30/07/2020)
  • Just had to throw out a perfectly good meal as the courgettes were very bitter. Homegrown from Thomson & Morgan Courgette Zuchini seeds free with Grow Your Own Magazine earlier this year. Lucky I have read about this problem in gardening forums, am going to destroy the plants.

    By L Thomson (01/08/2020)
  • Oh dear, me too. Mr Fothergill seeds. The most bitter thing I’ve ever tasted. I gave a plant to my 87 year old mother and to my daughter and grand children. Thank goodness they hadn’t eaten any. Already got a bit of a tummy ache. Not looking forward to later consequences !

    By Holly (01/08/2020)
  • OMG, This was an hour of cold sweat, tears, stomach pain / gripe, violent diarrhoea and vomiting. I made pickled courgette, I did taste before,faintly bitter, thought nothing of it. Woke up with rumbling in my tummy and drama started. I thought it was the sausage roll but it was my delicious tasting pickled courgette which I added to my salads and sandwiches, also had chicken curry with fresh courgette added. This is my first time planting courgette, but had bitter ones from the market which spoiled my muffins. Bye, bye courgette, never again

    By Lovern Brown (02/08/2020)
  • Not a member of your group, (I live in Nottingham) but came across this site this evening when looking up why my home-grown courgettes were so bitter. I ate two pieces and threw the rest away.
    Mine were Thompson and Morgan batch 296195, other batches are mentioned in this link.
    https://www.thompson-morgan.com/frequently-asked-questions

    Now awaiting overnight developments with trepidation!

    By Sue Sokal (03/08/2020)
  • I am feeling awful after eating a home grown courgette. I only ate a small piece but the other veg were tainted by the bitter taste. Had diarrhoea stomach cramps and now sickness. We think our seed came from Wilko.
    The courgette had grown quite large. Dont know if that affected it.

    By Karen Shead (05/08/2020)
  • I have made 3 separate batches of courgette & mint soup which I have made on a number of occasions over recent years. The first batch I made this year I sampled to see if I had the seasoning right. I only took a small mouthful, it was vile with a horrid back taste. Threw it down the loo. Thought it was the mint. Made another batch week or so later same thing. My third attempt this week was a again disgusting. You just had to spit it out it was so horrible. Thank Goodness I found this article As I couldn’t work out what it was. I’m about to bin my courgette plants. Thank god I didn’t eat any of them. !

    By M Donovan (08/08/2020)

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