Plants do not want to be eaten. Like all living things, they also have their defense mechanism that ensures their species’ development and perpetuation. But unlike animals, plants cannot run away from their predators. They just stand still bravely and let chemistry protect them.
Their defenses are in the form of natural pesticide and toxin compounds that ward off vegetarian pests. These abilities of the plants to defend themselves despite their inability to move, make them one of the most successful living organisms on earth.
Sometimes these plant compounds can be very toxic, like the ones present in hemlock poison which was used in Ancient Greece to kill prisoners. Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking the plant extract.
There are also plant compounds that are nontoxic, but very bitter, sour, or sappy, which help the plant ward off insects and animals. These are the plants that we call “edible”, but not necessarily “palatable”. It can be consumed by humans without adverse effects. In fact, some of the compounds present in plants can be helpful to humans not only for nutrition but also to heal various human sicknesses.
With the advancement in science, people learned to cultivate plants by removing or reducing the compounds that are responsible for their unpleasant taste. It resulted in sapid fruits and vegetables that we know today.
Science experts are also able to observe the bioactivity and bioavailability of phytochemicals and how these plant compounds can help in preventing, managing, and delaying human health disorders.