Forbidden fruit is something which is appealing but is not allowed, usually because of social or religious proscriptions. This term has its origins in the Book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge despite being told not to and end up facing certain consequences. When people refer to “forbidden fruit,” it includes the suggestion that disregarding the proscription against it could have severe consequences.
The term is often associated with acts that are considered sinful or inappropriate, such as things of a sexual nature. Some people might also use it to refer to secret and potentially dangerous knowledge, in a reference to Adam and Eve's original transgression. Social conventions might frown upon consuming something or engaging in a given activity, treating it as forbidden fruit, and sometimes this can make it more appetizing. Denying people the opportunity to do something can sometimes paradoxically increase their interest in it.
Some actions are not just socially unacceptable, they also are illegal. Many people treat the use of illegal drugs as an example of forbidden fruit, for instance. The illegality of things such as alcohol consumption for people who are younger than the drinking age can create a veil of intrigue that makes them more appealing. Legal consequences for consuming forbidden substances can vary but might create a barrier to seeking assistance if a problem arises, because people might fear legal penalties in the wake of something such as alcohol poisoning at a party that was attended by minors.
The term usually is used metaphorically, but there are a few examples of literal forbidden fruit. In Polynesian culture, for example, breadfruit is considered taboo for women, and they are not allowed to consume it. Other cultures might reserve specific fruits or fruit products for people who are in positions of power or privilege. They might also restrict access to hallucinogenic plants to people who act as shamans or medicine men, because they use these plants in specifically religious contexts, not recreational contexts. Although other members of the community could consume these forbidden fruits, it might be frowned upon.
The identity of the original fruit in Eden has been a topic of lively discussion. It is often assumed to be an apple, but several other fruits, including the fig and the tomato, have been put forward as potential candidates. Figs play a prominent role in Genesis, and because Adam and Eve also cover themselves with fig leaves after eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, it is possible that the original story meant to reference figs.