This study evaluates the toxic, mutagenic and antimutagenic effects of emerging edible plants that are consumed as new leafy vegetables in Taiwan. Among eight plant extracts, only the extracts of Sol (Solanum nigrum L.) showed cytotoxicity to Salmonella typhimurium TA100 in the absence of S9 mix. The toxicity of extracts from different parts of the Sol plant, such as leaf and stem, immature fruit and mature fruit, towards S. typhimurium TA100 and human lymphocytes was also assayed. The immature fruit extracts of Sol exhibited strong cytotoxicity with dose dependence and induced significant DNA damage in human lymphocytes based on the comet assay. However, no mutagenicity was found in eight plant extracts to TA98 or TA100 either with or without the S9 mixture. Sol and Sec [Sechium edule (Jacq.) Swartz] extracts showed the strongest inhibitory effect towards the mutagenicity of 2-amino-3-methyl-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (IQ) in S. typhimurium TA98 and TA100; the ID(50) was less then 1 mg/plate. Cra [Crassocephalum creidioides (Benth.) S. Moore] extracts also expressed moderate antimutagenic activities towards IQ and benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) either in TA98 or in TA100; the ID(50) was 1.63-2.41 mg/plate. The extracts from Bas (Basella alba L.), Bou (Boussingaultia gracilis Miers var. pseudobaselloides Bailey), Cen (Centella asiatica L. Urban), Cor (Corchorus olitorius L.) and Por (Portulaca oleracea L.) showed weak to moderate inhibition of mutagenicity of IQ. However, the potential antimutagenicity of these plant extracts towards B[a]P was weaker than that towards IQ. For a direct mutagen, 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide (NQNO), only the Sol extracts showed strong inhibitory effects in the TA100 system. The antimutagenic activity of water extracts of Sec was partly reduced by heating at 100 degrees C for 20 min. The heat-stable antimutagens in Sec extracts could be produced in the plant extract preparation process. Fractions with molecular weights above 30,000 showed the strongest antimutagenicity and peroxidase activity in all the fractions of the Sec extracts.