Westland and Mr Fothergill discontinued the sale of courgette seeds after some customers reported toxic gourds. Danielle Baxter required emergency medical attention after ingesting courgettes she grew in her home garden. Bitterness can indicate that the gourd is not fit for consumption. There have been reports of people dying after ingesting the poisonous gourds.

Baxter had bought Unwin's courgette seeds and planted them in her home garden. The home gardener wanted to enjoy the gourds she had grown during the COVID-19 lockdown. Baxter used them to make a roasted gourd dish.

Hours after eating the roasted gourds, Baxter started feeling unwell. She started vomiting and her body temperature increased. She also started having diarrhoea. She found out online that courgettes can be poisonous. The discovery worried the 38-year-old mother so she called 111 and was instructed to visit her nearest A&E.

Even though she received medical attention right away, it took Baxter five days to feel better, she told The Sun.

Courgettes contain the chemical cucurbitacins. When ingested in excess, cucurbitacins causes nausea and diarrhoea. Cucurbitacins can be found in gourds like cucumber and pumpkins as well. The plants use the chemical to deter animals by creating a bitter taste. Edible gourds are bred to reduce the level of cucurbitacins that the plants produce. However, certain external circumstances can encourage the plant to produce the toxin in excess.

Guy Barter of the Royal Horticultural Society advises for people to perform a taste test before using courgettes. If the gourd tastes bitter, then it should be discarded immediately as it is likely to contain the toxin in excess.

Unwin's parent company, Westland, stated that the toxic gourds were not due to the condition of the seeds. They claimed that the gourds became poisonous due to external factors. They still discontinued the sale of the product and launched an investigation.

Mr Fothergill announced a recall of their product on their website. They recalled packages with Batch code I. They stated that some seeds were resulting in "bitter-tasting fruits." The "rogue batch" had been withdrawn from sale. The company encouraged customers to return any seeds from that batch and wait for a replacement packet of seeds.

autumn budget 2017
Woman rushed to A&E after ingesting poisonous courgette. (representational image) Ben Stansall/AFP