Pine Nut Syndrome

pine nuts

I noticed something weird this week: just about everything I ate tasted odd. No matter what it was, from bland rice cakes to strong, dark coffee, a few minutes after I ate or drank it, there was an odd, bitter flavor lingering in my mouth.

Being me, naturally, I assumed the worst: That they were going to have to remove my mouth, or something.

Thankfully, before I scheduled an appointment for the removal, I read a few articles, such as Taste Disturbances After Pine Nut Ingestion, Pine Nuts Left a Bitter Taste in My Mouth, and The Pine Nut Menace and learned that it’s a phenomena that can happen after consuming certain pine nuts, naming Chinese pine nuts as a possible culprit.


I’ve been eating pine nuts for decades seemingly without any problems. But after reading those articles and popping Vichy mints almost non-stop to get the taste out of my mouth, I’m now going to check the origin of the pine nuts I purchase, buying Italian ones just to be sure.

Because it’s been almost a week now and I’m thinking all these mints I’m eating might be burning a hole in my mouth. Then I’d really have something to see the doctor about.

And goodness knows, I wouldn’t want to lose my ability to freely speak. Although not everyone, I think, necessarily shares that opinion.

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  • Susan
    April 4, 2010 6:57am

    I am so glad to hear someone else say something about the odd taste-over after eating pine nuts. For myself, I thought “Oh, NO!..not another foodie ingredient that I don’t like..what’s the matter with me!” Not kidding! Maybe the first couple of times I had them they were bad nuts, like this experience that you had. I haven’t eaten them since. I’ve substituted chopped almonds if a recipe has really needed the crunch of nuts. Whew! Glad you brought this up!

  • Nellie
    April 4, 2010 7:15am

    It took me a while to realise it was pine nuts that cause the horrible bitter…. A friend told my that roasting the (Chinese) pine nuts should do the trick ( I now restrain from my always eating some straight from the bag …)

  • April 4, 2010 7:16am

    I have never known of this phenomenon. I will watch out for it next time I have pine nuts.

  • April 4, 2010 7:25am

    Wow, even the pine nuts from China can be scary!

    I love pine nuts. Thanks for the info. I will have to check into the origin of my pine nuts.

  • April 4, 2010 7:47am

    And now I feel vindicated in pine nuts being one of my least favourite nuts. But I do hope the funny taste goes away soon – after losing my sense of taste last month (in Munich, no less – argh), I’m incredibly sympathetic to any alteration of taste-pleasure.

    And if your last comment is a reference to some of that facebook stuff going on… well, count me amongst those who want you to speak free-est-ly forever and ever amen.

  • April 4, 2010 7:48am

    Funny in the bizarre sense of the word! Kind of like asparagus and red wine with me. Guess I should check out those pine nuts in the freezer… Hope you get your sense of taste back soon – in the culinary sense of course!

  • April 4, 2010 7:52am

    Here in the Middle East, pinenuts are the nut of choice in baking and cooking. Despite eating lots of them, taste distortion never happened to me. I did read about it on Egullet about a year ago, perhaps there is a genetic factor involved (and this will never happen to me)

  • April 4, 2010 8:06am

    This is totally new information to me! I don’t have many opportunities to use pine nuts, but keep them in my larder for urgent requests. A bit scary now. Hope you feel better soon.

  • ChefDylan
    April 4, 2010 8:17am

    How curious!

    Never heard of this… but I am keen to hunt down some Chinese pinenuts just to give it a try!


  • petoskystone
    April 4, 2010 8:32am

    losing my sense of taste is a horrifying thought. i hope you will be back to normal soon! this just might be your scariest post yet! i’m now wondering what you’re holding back for halloween…

  • Véronique
    April 4, 2010 8:35am

    I know someone who’s had the same problem, which wasn’t diagnosed by her doctor, who prescribed something totally unnecessary for her stomach, but through google. It disappeared after about two weeks.
    Since you’re in France, you may keep the pine nuts you purchased and give a call to the local “centre anti-poison” ( ). I know that, at least recently, they were collecting some in order to find out what exactly in these nuts induces the problem: it’s by far not all Chinese pine nuts, but never European pine nuts that cause it.

  • Cyndy
    April 4, 2010 9:04am

    Can one respond to a Twitter comment here? Re your comment about ATMs and 50 euro bills: When we had rent to pay in cash, it was impossible to find 50 euro bills in an atm around the 11th. We carted envelope upon envelope of 20 euro bills to the rental agent in the 1ere. Now that the rent’s all paid up till the end of our stay, we can’t find a 20. What happened to the five 20s when you get a hundred at HSBC? We must have run them out paying the rent.

    By the way, there is at least one atm up by Go Sport and Darty that is only dispensing in lots of 50. I thought the lady in front of us was out of money in her account because she left penniless. Then we did the same thing. Just try walking into your favorite little cheese shop and buying a Saint- Marcelin with a 50. It took me MONTHS of bad French to make that lady like me…

  • Debbie
    April 4, 2010 9:29am

    Speaking of pine nuts – My daughter has a severe tree nut allergy, (i.e., every nut but the peanut, which is actually not a nut but a legume). We have stayed away from pine nuts, but I wonder if they are actually seeds, not nuts, and possibly fine for her to eat. I won’t take a chance, of course, but would hate to think she’s been missing out on pesto for nothing… Does anyone know? Thanks!

  • Sigrid
    April 4, 2010 9:30am

    This is incredibly interesting. My husband and I (we both live in Paris) had this one after the other. Everything kept tasting bitter, approx. for 2 weeks, then it went away by itself. My husband had it twice, me luckily only once. And we do eat pine nuts (the ones you get at Monoprix), although mostly toasted (but maybe not back then).

    My husband did a lot of research about the topic because he is a wine expert and a foodie and already feared having to sell his wine cellar. And everything he found said: “Reasons can range from brain tumor to phases of the moon” and “Usually lasts at least one year”. No mention of pine nuts.

    Thank God there may be an easier explanation. We’ll definitely have an eye on our pine nuts dosage now! Thanks for sharing indeed!

  • April 4, 2010 9:47am

    After reading that Whole Foods was selling Chinese “organic” frozen vegetables that have no real inspection process in place to verify the Organic claim, I am starting to pay more attention to where things come from. From the scary news stories one hears about heavy metal laden water and soil on Chinese farms, what does that organic appellation give you? Organically toxic? Thanks for the pine nut notice. The biggest problem most people have with pine nuts is that the go rancid quickly… most people that don’t like them have never had them when they are fresh.

  • April 4, 2010 10:09am

    Nellie: I always roast mine, too. But that didn’t seem to be an issue.

    deana: Am surprised because, I would imagine they apply the same standards to ‘organic’ ingredients grown in America that they do abroad if they’re being imported. From what I’ve read, this syndrome doesn’t seemed to be caused by any chemicals, but may be just some reaction to the variety of pine nuts..perhaps. If anyone does know, I’d be interested in knowing more about it.

    Sigrid: You can find Italian pine nuts in specialty shops and some Arabic épiceries. Usually they’re more expensive, hence people (like me) tend to grab the cheaper ones. Glad your husband didn’t dump all that wine!

    Hannah: This had nothing to do with my Facebook page. But am glad I laid down the law over there. People forget that I worked in restaurant kitchens and I’ve seen just about every kind of good, and bad, behavior. And I’ve seen it all..

    Cyndy: I am sure the banks that give the €50 notes are in cahoots with the shops, knowing that you’ll have to buy a fairly big ticket item to change them. My two strategies are, 1) Go to the outdoor market near the end of the day, when the vendors have a lot of bills and would likely want to consolidate them, or 2) Go to a shopkeeper that I know well.

  • Helen, Canada
    April 4, 2010 11:05am
  • Lauren
    April 4, 2010 11:19am

    “Being me, naturally, I assumed the worst: That they were going to have to remove my mouth, or something.”

    I love you, David.

  • April 4, 2010 11:45am

    Glad of the reminder of this, as I had forgotten about it. Did notice, recently, though how darn expensive pine nuts are-much more than they used to be, even at Berkeley Bowl and they don’t always say where they come from. For less than a quarter pound I paid nearly $7.

    On frozen organic vegetables, the standards are not necessarily the same, or at least aren’t governed the same-always been a question in Mexico too.

    At any rate, hope the taste buds get back to normal.


  • April 4, 2010 11:54am

    I noticed that the ones from China and a few other places are a different species–they’re shaped kind of like a corn kernel, rather than symmetrical like the Mediterranean ones. I first noticed the problem with raw pine nuts from Trader Joes. For some reason if I buy them already roasted, in which case they are labeled as Russia or Korea for country of origin, they don’t leave that bitter after effect. Maybe they blanch the nuts before roasting or something?

  • April 4, 2010 11:54am

    I had never hear of this but then again, living in Italy would protect me from encountering such trouble.
    Are you sure this is what is causing your distortion of taste? A week seems like a long time.

  • April 4, 2010 12:37pm

    I had that same thing happen to me about a year ago. I was freaking out, scouring the web for clues. I kept coming across sites that said that a bitter taste in the mouth could be a sign of pregnancy, which really freaked me out. Luckily, I found an article about pine nuts being the cause, and I could finally relax.

  • April 4, 2010 12:56pm

    This is really creepy! I have never heard of such a thing, but am certainly glad to know it. I thought I was getting such a deal on a big bag of pine nuts at Costco. Guess I’ll be tossing them out! My bet is they are not from Italy.

  • April 4, 2010 1:23pm

    I tend to check origin on everything, and if it’s from China I don’t buy it, especially food. Lately I can’t buy green onions from Mexico — they cause other problems. Ridiculous that we have Mexican produce at all being so close to the prime growing regions of California. I don’t buy fruit from Chile either — just wait for it in season here. Chilean grapes in California? please.

  • Connie
    April 4, 2010 1:28pm

    Maybe eating some pine nuts is a good way to jump start a diet. Nothing will taste good!

  • Lynn in Tucson
    April 4, 2010 2:00pm

    David, when this happened to me last year I read that rancidity can be a factor and, in addition to looking for Italian pine nuts, you should buy from a place with high turnover in their stock.

    I don’t think there’s a genetic component, as I’ve eaten pine nuts for years without any ill effect.

    Drinking white wine was unbearable while this was going on. It does go away, though.

  • Judy
    April 4, 2010 2:01pm

    Your sense of taste??? Whew, at first I was worried they had affected your sense of humor.

  • Sam
    April 4, 2010 2:04pm

    I regularly buy pine nuts from China in UK supermarkets such as Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. I have not had any taste problems following consumption, so I assume that not all Chinese pine nuts cause this problem, or perhaps only some people are affected by it.

  • April 4, 2010 2:15pm

    I’ve been buying those pine nuts from Costco for years, and never had this problem. Let’s hope it doesn’t start…

  • mac
    April 4, 2010 2:17pm

    …..I’ve never had it happen with pine nuts…but…I completely lost all sense of taste for 3 + weeks after a few days of testing fennel recipes. It was frightening. I haven’t touched tongue to frond since!

  • Rachael
    April 4, 2010 2:35pm

    Hi David:

    This happened to me last year right before a wine tasting trip (horrible timing). I was so sure I had a pain-free abscessed tooth or a brain tumor..something dire! It would have to be because everything, even water, tasted foul. My symptoms lasted about 2 weeks. It took about 2 days (maybe more like a day and 1/2) to appear. I recently ate the Italian pine nuts (which are thinner than the fat, tear-drop shaped Chinese pine nuts) and I am thrilled to report that days later, things still taste as they should. I hope your symptoms disappear quickly. It’s horrible.

    (I wrote a small post about it here: )

  • Rachael
    April 4, 2010 2:41pm

    I want to add one more thing: My husband and I ate the same pine nuts and only I was affected. It’s so strange!

  • amliag
    April 4, 2010 2:46pm

    Pine nuts are seeds, not nuts. if you don’t believe me!

    Good info though – thanks!

  • Victoria
    April 4, 2010 3:06pm

    Debbie, re tree nut allergy:

    I’m a lifelong tree nut allergy sufferer, and I can assure you that pine nuts trigger my allergy, too. All nuts are seeds, but not all tree seeds contain the proteins that set off the allergic reaction. I’m emphatically and joyously not allergic to peanuts, coconuts, nutmeg, water chestnuts, sesame, and other grass-origin seeds/grains. I’m dangerously allergic, however, to almonds, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and surely others. It is a colossal bummer, and throws a serious wrench into travel to places like Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. I won’t even use shea butter for fear of a reaction, and I’m scared of litchi nuts, even though they may not actually be nuts. Do be careful with your kid, and try any new nuts in the parking lot of a good hospital!

  • April 4, 2010 4:45pm

    I bought a huge bag of almonds at Costco yesterday and noticed that they were out of the huge bag of pine nuts. I have been reading a lot of articles lately about this strange bitter effect. I wonder if the bad press on Asian-sourced pine nuts has Costco looking for another source. I have not found any pine nuts in California that are not from Asia. I have not had this happen to me yet. Thank goodness.

  • April 4, 2010 6:34pm

    Being this far out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, most likely my pine nuts (origin unknown) are rancid by now, and I will be tossing them. Pesto with my own mac nuts is really good. So all I can say is eat local if possible. Thanks for the info.

  • Bev
    April 4, 2010 7:11pm

    This happened to me about a month ago. I was using the neti pot, brushing , flossing and gargling like a maniac. I was about to go to the doctor then I decided to go online.
    The bitter taste was horrible and took a long time to subside.
    I now use Italian pine nuts which are lovely, but cost a fortune in Canada.

  • April 4, 2010 8:14pm

    G. Detou had the cheapest pine nuts I have ever seen. And they tasted great, too. There was a basket full of them right by the entrance door and I remember being shocked to see that they were nearly 1/10th the cost pine nuts in Turkey. I bought two packs. Only one of them made it to Istanbul.

  • annie
    April 4, 2010 8:15pm

    Hi David,
    So sorry to hear that this has hit you too! I had the same unpleasant experience just 6 weeks ago, and it did last for 2 weeks before finally disappearing. Bitter bitter bitter! I was sure I had oral cancer or something. Thank goodness for the internet, can you imagine going through this 10 years ago, without instant information at your fingertips? I have no idea what actually causes it, but for me it developed after eating very fresh, delicious, toasted pine nuts in a salad, and didn’t affect the other 2 people who shared lunch that day. Not fun!!!

  • April 4, 2010 8:45pm

    So funny you posted this. Just last week my old boss was telling me he had the same problem and traced it back to pine nuts as well. Now I have to go look up the name for that phenomenon when you about something new and then randomly hear about it again right away…

  • Traci
    April 4, 2010 8:46pm

    I’ve had this happen, it sucks. Always a metallic taste in your mouth, especially after eating anything. It goes away in about a week or so. I think it’s mostly from rancid pine nuts.

  • K
    April 4, 2010 8:57pm


    This happened to me too and has also happened to numerous friends of mine. It’s so annoying and frustrating! Seems there should be some kind of ban on these nuts?!

  • Linda H
    April 4, 2010 9:20pm

    I hadn’t heard about the Chinese pine nuts, but I remember reading that the Italian ones are the sweetest and mildest ones, and that the Chinese one can be “resin-y.”
    The latest Chinese horror story in the US is that all drywall made in China should be torn out of houses constructed with it–it’s toxic, making people sick and corroding the wiring inside the walls. Another fun import!
    Hope you recover soon.

  • April 4, 2010 9:44pm

    I guess this would be one way to lose weight, but not one I would want!
    I hope that you are one of the fortunate ones who is only affected for a day or two, David!
    Thanks for the tip – I will definitely by checking on the provenance of the pine nuts I buy in future!

  • April 4, 2010 9:45pm

    I love pine nuts in pasta, I have never noticed a bitter taste. Maybe they weren’t from China.

  • April 4, 2010 10:08pm

    Oh my, I’ve heard stories about this happening. I buy pine nuts at Costco, and they must be okay because I’ve never had problems. Hope you are better soon; you need to be able to taste!

  • Natalie Yasmin
    April 4, 2010 10:27pm

    And to think I was at the market today, a pre-measured container filled with pine nuts in hand, debating if I should make pesto tonight. I decided against purchasing because they appeared to be in different shades (from the pale hue of a peeled clove of garlic, to a heavy and more roasted shade of toasted sesame seeds). David, or anyone for that matter, what color should pine nuts be upon purchasing, if I fully intend to toast them up a bit myself?

  • Samantha
    April 4, 2010 10:40pm

    This happened to me – chewing candied ginger helped get rid of it.

  • Jackie
    April 4, 2010 10:56pm

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! I recently experienced this bitter episode as I was visiting my sister in Dublin. I had no idea what to atribute it to and began thinking I had some sort of metal toxicity or vitamin deficiency. Turns out it was the load of pine nuts I ate before I left, and continuing to eat them when I returned home , thus giving me no real time to get rid of the dreaded bitterness to everything I ate. Honestly, thank you for posting this!! I am excited to enjoy food, and WINE, once again!! Cheers!

  • April 4, 2010 11:14pm

    I read about this on a few other blogs, the first time about a year ago; a few weeks later, my workout buddy mentioned that she thought she was going to have to see her doctor about this bitter taste in her mouth that hadn’t gone away. I asked if she’d eaten pine nuts recently, and she said, “How did you know? Oh my god, pine nuts caused this?” I’m glad I’ve never experienced this myself!

  • J Bean
    April 4, 2010 11:23pm

    Jeepers! Mystery solved. My mother moved to New Mexico and has been supplying me with New Mexico pinon nut coffee (coffee roasted with pinon pine nuts) for Christmas. I only drink one cup in the morning, but have been having this weird intermittent bitterness from swallowing anything, even water. Depressing, because I love this coffee. However, as far as I know the nuts in this coffee are New Mexico grown and not Chinese.

    There should be a twiddle over the “n” in pinon, but I’m an American, so I don’t type accents. So there.

  • Sheena
    April 4, 2010 11:45pm

    oh my, I’ll look out next time I’m buying pine nuts!

  • April 5, 2010 12:20am

    After a horrible experience with pine nuts last year, I have sworn them off completely. The bitter taste lasted about 2 weeks! I now use almonds, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds in the place of pine nuts.

  • Jennifer
    April 5, 2010 12:41am

    Seems you’re not the only one to have this problem recently:

  • April 5, 2010 12:43am

    I was recently at a wine tasting and this guy was telling me about his friend had lost his pallet. Maybe he had some Chinese pine nuts. i would think some walnuts could have the same effect. Maybe your just NUTS!

  • April 5, 2010 1:59am

    that’s funny (ok, only from my side :/), I thought the problems with pine nuts was totally ended now ! If you remember well, every one was talking about this in France during the end of August and the beginning of September 2009. I remembered that I left you this comment on the apricot kernels post, September 3rd :

    “That’s funny, I thought you would have made this kind of note but about pine nuts, les pignons de pins, everyone is talking about the burns and the bitter taste they leave for days in the mouth of a lot of people in France and Europe. They say that Turkish pine nuts are guilty for this, but some from China have the same bad effect.

    I woudn’t eat pesto this days, even well paid :D…”

    Let’s say I’m happy to have avoided pine nuts since then… I hope you’ll find back those taste buds quickly and in full recovery !

  • April 5, 2010 2:40am

    I wouldn’t want you to lose your ability to freely speak.Your voice is becoming more and more precious to me.

  • April 5, 2010 2:44am

    I always check to see where they come from, because pinenuts can be horrifically dangerous to some few who are allergic, and the Chinese ones are the worst culprits. My BIL can go into anaphylactic shock from them.

    Does anyone know what Indian nuts are? My recollection is that they were rounder and bigger than pnenuts but also from an evergreen conifer.

  • Jurij Burkanov
    April 5, 2010 7:30am

    Well, I’d be glad to have just an odd taste after eating pine nuts. In my case, they’ve triggered an allergic shock, so three times I happend to eat pine nuts I was pretty close to die. It is really that bad, especially because you can find them in quite a broad assortment of products – from pesto and tuna sauce to any cakes and serials.

  • john
    April 5, 2010 10:42am

    Here in northern Nevada we are lucky and can consume our local “produce”…pinon pine grows everywhere in the foothills. The tree bears only every 4 years or so and you have to rotate the locale where you harvest. The Pine Nut range near the little town of Dayton, about 30 minutes from here, is so large that it always has some section that is bearing, you just have to know which old mining road to head up. The search is half the fun, *outwitting* nature. It was one of the adventures we always looked forward to as kids, hiking in with the bamboo poles, tarps, arrow head hunting as you went, covered with pitch at the end of the day. They taste better when you’ve filled those burlap bags yourself. Roasted of course with a little salt. Now, too old for the tramp, and you have to get permits ya ya ya and the local stores carry them anyway (in the shell or hulled) so it’s just easier to buy them there. But good memories, the best kind of aftertaste…john

  • kathryn
    April 5, 2010 1:35pm

    So interesting. I’m experience the same thing right now and I ate pine nuts three days ago. I had a few pine nuts from a large bag I purchased months ago from Whole Foods (product of China) but clearly they had gone rancid so I tossed them and went to the grocery. (Note to self: buy smaller quantities and keep in the refrigerator.) At my local Giant Supermarket I purchased a small bottle of Cento Pignoli nuts for an amazingly large some of money. I used one tablespoon in a recipe for Caponata. I assume the Cento pine nuts are from Italy, but who knows? The label offers no information. Now I don’t know what to think. Is it pine nuts from China? Rancid pine nuts? All pine nuts? A newly developed food allergy? The only thing I’m sure of is my Easter jelly beans were not so enjoyable this year.

  • April 5, 2010 1:41pm

    krysalia: I forgot about that, but thanks for bringing it (back) to my attention : )

    kathryn: Oddly, from what I’ve read, no one can quite put their finger on why it happens. I doubt pine nuts are a big topic for research, but I was fascinated to know that I wasn’t the only one this has happened to, and that there were so many articles out there about this.

    I think the elongated pine nuts, which are slender like orzo pasta, are Italian in origin. I’m not sure, though. Things in EU countries are all supposed to be labeled with their country of origin, but I just watched a hidden camera going into a mushroom warehouse in France where they were replacing the Bulgaria and Romania labels with “Made in France” ones.

  • April 5, 2010 2:31pm

    When I was young, spending my summers with my grandparents in the south of France, we would on occasion go to remote groves, climb the pine trees and grab pine cones and toss them down to those waiting below. We would end the day tired, scratched, and covered in sap, but with a bucket of pine nuts we’d extracted from the cones.

    Those nuts never left a bitter taste.

    Pine nuts from China… that I can imagine being a very different story. Given the level of manufacturing in China, plus the lack of pollution controls, the high toxicity of air and water, and the absolute lack of serious regulation or oversight on food production, well any food coming from China would be very suspect in my book.

    Stick to those coming from around the Med.

    Love reading your Blog BTW!

  • jae
    April 5, 2010 3:07pm

    i just went through this same thing! last sunday i made pesto and snacked on a handful of pine nuts and two days later everything i ate left a horrible rancid bitter taste in my mouth. i thought i was going to have a stroke! thank goodness i did a little googling and found out the culprit was pine nuts. the pine nuts i had eaten were purchased at trader joes, maybe a couple months old and stored in the fridge. they didn’t taste rancid, but that particular bag hadn’t given me problems before, so i guess they must’ve been bad. thankfully the bitter taste went away after three days. will be making pesto w/walnuts in the future, just in case.

  • April 5, 2010 3:09pm

    This is really weird. I had a period last year when I would suddenly get this horrible taste in my mouth- very bitter- like I had ingested poison. My husband thought I was losing my mind as on a number of occasions, I ran to the sink to spit out whatever it was I was eating and furiously washed my tongue whilst warning the children not to eat what daddy had made as it had poison in it! I looked it up on the internet and found that it could be caused by a hormonal imbalance due to pregnancy or menopause. Well, he loved that! It all fitted in with his idea that I really was going crazy……I think it probably was some bad bad pine nuts- urgghhh. Never eating those again. It was nasty.

  • April 5, 2010 4:09pm

    This just happened to me 2 weeks ago! My bf wasn’t affected and he ate the same meal as me. I love pine nuts and it was the first time it happened, but I am definitely keeping watch over where I get my pine nuts from in the future.

  • Maggie Wilson
    April 5, 2010 4:26pm

    You are so crazy funny, you usually make my day. I wish I lived next door to you (and we were friendly).

  • April 5, 2010 4:41pm

    I’m not sure why, but it seems so many products coming from China are just not good. I stay away from the garlic. I’ve never had a problem with pine nuts, but I look for non-Chinese products like this.

  • Donna Adams
    April 5, 2010 6:54pm

    Don’t eat anything from China!

  • April 5, 2010 8:27pm

    Pine nuts, as well as all nuts, are best refrigerated, as their high oil content causes rancidity.

    When we lived in northern New Mexico, the local pine nuts were harvested from the wild every autumn. No one ever complained of such a reaction. When we lived there, pine nuts from China appeared in the stores, and they were so cheap compared to local pine nuts. We get what we pay for — buyer beware.

    Interesting read on pine nuts. Commercial link, but provides good info on foreign pine nuts.

  • Maureen in Austin
    April 5, 2010 8:27pm

    Sounds like a good weight loss program.

  • kim
    April 5, 2010 9:22pm

    Weird to see the post, since I very recently discovered the same thing. Never had an issue with pine nuts before, ate a whole bunch of Trader Joe’s pine nuts (package said from Korea/Vietnam/Russia) and had a bitter taste in my mouth for a week. At first, also thought that there was something medically wrong with me, but googled “everything tastes bitter” and the first two hits were about pine nuts. The weird thing is I’m Korean American. I grew up with my parents buying Korean pine nuts all the time, and I never had an issue eating them (granted I didn’t like pine nuts that much when I was young, so I never ate a lot in one sitting). Very weird.

    By the way, the best pine nuts I have ever tasted are ones a friend gave me from New Mexico… the piñon. They were still in their shells, so I had to crack them with my teeth. But they are the butteriest, nuttiest, no-metallic-taste pine nuts I’ve ever had.

  • April 6, 2010 2:40am

    I don’t mean to point a finger at all products from China, as I’m sure there are many good ones. But in this case, they are suspect, according to everything I’ve read.

    It’s unfortunate that such a dynamic culture, with such a rich, wonderful food history, isn’t keeping better tabs on its food supply (although in this case, I don’t think the pine nuts are treated with anything–it sounds like it just may be the variety.) I use a lot of Asian ingredients in my pantry, but now when I go shopping, I no longer buy the cheapest soy sauce , and look for brands made in Japan, and am much more picky that I used to be about purchasing anything else.

    I was buying them because they were a lot less expensive than the other ones, as well as being much easier to find. But from now on, I am going to spend the extra bucks on the ones from Italy.

  • April 6, 2010 4:35am

    hi david,

    I love to bake and dying to see Paris. I want to go there for 2 things.

    1. Taste all the French food I’ve been drooling in recipe shows and books
    2. To find “the one”

    Asking you about love is a wrong move coz you wont be into it so
    instead will ask you about French food. What is the best creme brulee
    recipe you ever tasted?

    Btw, I will follow you in Twitter and Facebook and will buy your book-

    Great to know you’re loving life.


  • Sini
    April 6, 2010 7:16am

    I have never heard about this kind of phenomenon. But thank you for warning us about Chinese pine nuts!

  • April 6, 2010 10:00am

    I seem to have suffered a similar thing a few times but the culprit for me were sunflower seeds. Not only did I end up with irritated taste buds but I kept feeling sick whenever I ate them. But how it would suck if I couldn’t eat pine nuts anymore…goodbye pesto.

  • April 6, 2010 11:19am

    Wow! This is such a timely post. This entire week I have had some weird bitter taste in my mouth and I have been trying to figure out why. Well I ate 2 pine nut cookies a week ago. Gotta be from the nuts.

  • April 6, 2010 11:42am

    the first time this happened to me was about 5 years ago and i went to the doctor because of the terrible metallic taste.

  • April 6, 2010 12:18pm

    I had the same problem. So much for cheap pine nuts at Trader Joe’s! Some foods are meant to remain delicacies.

  • Pia
    April 6, 2010 1:21pm

    It’s called ‘Pine Mouth.’

  • April 6, 2010 3:14pm

    This may come across as blasphemy but I have honest to goodness never had a pine nut that wasn’t in a pesto. I don’t even know what they taste like. But now I know to watch out.

  • Kate
    April 6, 2010 6:10pm

    The best pine nuts in the world are from Lebanon. They are hard to come by, but if you can find them, buy them! In Beirut they sell for one hundred dollars a kilo. They are truly amazing. I gave some to a friend and she thought they were yogurt covered because they were so sweet and rich. I stock up whenever I am in Beirut.

  • Amy
    April 6, 2010 6:35pm

    Saw this similar story not too long ago…

    Yes – let’s read more about pine mouth…can’t get enough of the ol’ pine mouth…
    (that sounds like a song my Pappy used to sing with his jug band) ♫ ♪

  • Ingrid
    April 7, 2010 4:58am

    Last year something similar happened to me, and (like you?) I was completely convinced I had a strange yet (naturally) lethal disease. Everything tasted very ‘flat’ (bread tasted as if it had been baked without salt and the fresh fruit juice I always drink tasted like very weak lemonade) and often the only thing I would taste was a coppery/metallic taste. I even went to the dentist, who said I might have metal allergies! Naturally, the whole phenomenon disappeared with time (up to 2 weeks in total) and I am not allergic to any type of metal, nor do I seem to have a brain tumor (the things a mind comes up with…). Later on I read about this pine nut thing and remembered I ingested some (cheap ones) quite enthusiastically prior to the whole mess. I have since eaten pine nuts without problems, but I do make sure to buy good ones. All in all it is not something I want to repeat, it scared me. Also, not tasting stuff is NOT cool if you like nice food :-) (Although I am sure if it would persist it would be the world’s best diet, although probably not the nicest.)

  • April 8, 2010 9:28am

    Thank you so much for posting this, as weird as it sounds. I never realized it was the pine nuts that caused this unpleasant problem! I’ll be more careful about which ones I buy from now on, especially since my daughter is eyeing the growing basil, just itching for it to be ready for her to launch on her annual pesto making spree!

  • ingrid
    April 8, 2010 8:16pm

    I, too, have had a palate crisis; it turned out to be a new sunscreen I was using that was all over my face and hands, and thus on my food. But I freaked out and thought I had overdosed on stone fruits and my palate was broken! Thank heavens I figured it out so I could keep eating 12 peaches a day!

  • pepovst
    April 9, 2010 6:33am

    Reminds me of the horrible metal taste I had in my mouth for a few months during pregnancy… no amount of mints could get rid of it. A fresh piece of chewing gum worked, but one cannot be chewing that non-stop. I’ve never had the pine-nut problem – perhaps all nuts I’ve had came from elsewhere. Good to know and avoid :-)

  • April 9, 2010 2:52pm

    I love your blog, but I love it even more after reading this post! I’ve been experiencing a bitter taste in my mouth all week and could not figure out what was going on. I was actually thinking about seeing my doctor if it continued. Now I can relax knowing that the pine nuts I ate last Sunday (which I purchased from the bulk section at Berkeley Bowl), are likely the culprit. Thank you for shedding some light on this phenomenon!

  • April 11, 2010 1:35pm

    I had no idea this could happen! Anyway, I only have tried the Portuguese pine nuts (and their marvelous pine nut rolls) and the Brazilian Pine nuts ( that are completely different in format and taste of the other pine nuts, and you can find only in the South)… but I will be more careful when buying those nuts from now on…. It must be awfull to experience such side-effect!

  • April 12, 2010 4:14pm

    Fascinating. I’ve never noticed this, but have regardless recently started buying Spanish and Lebanese pinenuts instead of Chinese – the former seem to be a nicer quality. The Spanish ones in particular are completely different – more chewy rather than crunchy. I did read something in a food magazine recently that said pesto was often bitter, but that was attributed to the evoo rather than the pinenuts.

  • April 13, 2010 5:16pm

    I have the same issues with pepitas which come from China also!

  • April 15, 2010 5:21am

    Oh this happened to me and everyone thought I was going crazy.. this is what happens when you have a communal kitchen shared with 10+ people and are in dire need for a mini snack. Learned my lesson.. don’t steal others’ pine nuts, you never know how long they’ve been there!!

  • missmiller
    April 21, 2010 9:07am

    On Friday (it’s now Wednesday) I ate some pinenuts from a mixed bag of seeds and nuts (country of origin unknown) purchased in the St John St Waitrose in London. Just as David describes, since Saturday morning every time I eat something I have this disgusting chemical/bitter taste in my mouth and also when I wake up in the morning. It’s particularly bad when I have something sweet. It’s like I licked a bar of soap or swallowed shampoo. Having convinced myself that i had some terrible liver/brain/mouth cancer, I went to the dentist yesterday, but he couldn’t find anything. So it must be the pinenuts.

    What I want to know is and what I can’t see from the thousands of posts here and on other sites that discuss this subject, is can I ever eat pinenuts again without this happening? I love pesto etc, but not enough to risk this again.

  • Gail Whaley
    April 21, 2010 8:10pm

    This is happening to me right now! Had a wonderful pasta and chicken dish with pine nuts at a restaurant Sunday night. Spent Tuesday convinced I had some horrible disease and found this today!! It is the most horrible taste imaginable!
    Thought it was gone this morning until I put some food in my mouth again- AAAGH. Please go away soon…

  • April 30, 2010 2:53am

    I am wondering, after reading some of the comments, how possibly people do not feel that something is wrong the moment they put it in their mouth. Didn’t you feel an awful taste? I was born in the South of Italy and every summer collecting pine cones full of delicious pine nuts, so i know the real taste. Once [i live in India] i bought some Indian pine nuts – the shop keeper told me they were from the Himalaya, when i tasted one i thought they were disgusting obviously coming from a different species of pine tree i thought. Btw the color was yellowish like the ones in your picture, while the Italian “pinoli” are white, from the Italian Stone Pine tree [Pinus pinea] umbrella-like shape. Love your blog.

  • June 5, 2010 7:23pm

    Hi David,
    I read an article from MSNBC’s The Body Odd blog about your syndrome and wanted to let you know that Italian pine nuts also cause the same sensations. It isn’t the origin of the nuts that matter, but how you process it. Of course, there are many theories, but sometimes, we are too quick to judge ingredients, especially if they are from a country that we aren’t familiar with.

    Here’s the link if you’re interested: Pine Mouth Syndrome Leaves a Bitter Taste

  • Bev
    June 15, 2010 1:10pm

    I am currently experiencing this problem and had pine nuts several days ago. It’s good to read about it, and to know the symptoms are temporary!

  • mim
    July 5, 2010 1:24pm

    I throw up after eating pine nutes…can’t digest them for some reason. S, I never ever eat them anymore and am very cautious when eating out. And never eat pesto anything. It’s not an allergic reaction, but a food intolerance, I’ve been told. It took me years to figure out that pine nuts were the cause of my problem. Anyone else have that or am I an extreme pin nut case?

  • Wendy
    July 10, 2010 7:30am

    I am a retired UK Nutritionist having worked in hospital all of my life as a dietitian.When this disgusting taste started in my mouth I looked up possible causes. I was amazed to find pine nuts as a cause and sure enough I had eaten about 50 gm during the preceding day-some cooked-having not had any for several months. They were packed by Infinity Foods as Chinese organic pine kernels. Am now on day three and waiting for clear palate. I am concerned about the unseen effects and the actual chemical cause. Enough people have experienced the symptom for the import to be banned.

  • Gretchen
    August 9, 2010 12:23pm

    PLEASE report to the FDA. This is a horrible thing to happen to anyone. Something has to be done about this so this does not happen to other people.

  • Dawn
    August 13, 2010 12:43pm

    I am from the UK, both myself and my partner have been suffering with pine mouth for over a week now. They are from Tesco and they are their own brand and originate from China. I’ve been eating pine nuts without any problems for years now but then a couple of days after cooking with them and now everything is inedible. Everything tastes like what I i,agine is a cross between washing liquid and sucking a copper coin, I have felt dizzy and sick and we can only eat extremely sweet things as otherwise it makes you want to vomit. Had a very disatisfactory response from Tesco they are taking no responsiblity for this whatsoever. Very unhappy and miserable if anyone has any recommendations for getting rid of eat please help!

  • bunny
    August 19, 2010 7:02pm

    Last week I bought a bag of toasted pine nuts at Trader Joes to make pesto and ate some. Day or 2 later ate almonds..bleh….threw whole bag out. Ate potato chips..bleh….threw whole bag out. Ate a banana…bleh bleh bleh and realized something was wrong with ME not every food and drink in my house!!!! I wondered maybe I overdosed on Spirulina since I recently started taking it like I ruined my liver or something! (Researched that for hours!) Drank gallons of water trying to detox myself. Why in the world doesn’t Trader Joes take it off the shelf instead of make customers suffer. That’s mean. At least put up a warning sign so people don’t think they are going to croak. I’m going to tell them that. :P It is kind of going away after 3 days thank goodess.

  • Monroe
    September 6, 2010 1:31am

    I thought for sure this bitter metal taste was a symptom of something horrible. Google overwhelmingly convinced me of the culprit – Whole Foods bulk pine nuts! I hope it doesn’t last long. As much as I have enjoyed pine nuts in salads and in a pesto sauce, I have eaten my last pine nut forever. Counting the days until the bitterness in gone…almost finished with day one.

  • Grace
    September 16, 2010 10:29am

    Hi everyone, I’m a food scientist in the Netherlands and I wish to investigate this pine nut syndrome. I wish to get in touch with anyone who has experienced this problem and still have the problem seeds on hand! If you would kindly contact me at, I would be very grateful!
    Thank you and best regards,
    Grace Tan

  • Sylvia
    October 25, 2010 10:16pm

    Regarding the ***nut allergies*** and pine nuts, please do not take a chance. My husband is very allergic to nuts and we, too, had always been told that pine nuts were actually seeds. At a catered event, after discussing with the chef to be certain no nuts were in anything he would eat, my husband decided to partake in an absolutely delicious dish ana was immediately rushed to the hospital and coded. He was hit with the paddles, is fine now, but spent 3 days in intensive care. As it turns out, pine nuts had been finely ground into the dish. Nut or seed…who cares….people with nut allergies, please be careful.
    ** Can anyone suggest something to add to a dish, in the place of pine nuts (or any nuts?) to impart/enhance flavor in the same way. I would really like to make the Swiss Chard tarte recipe. I would be most grateful.***

  • November 18, 2010 5:59pm

    The pine mouth data is being collected by a University and to report a case of pine nut mouth please go to:
    Grace Tan is using her blog and the internet to collect data on this condition and she is the only researcher to take a serious shot at trying to find the cause.
    Thank you,
    Penny Frazier

  • Kelly
    December 3, 2010 1:57am

    I am on day 2 of this bizarre pine nut disturbance. We bought our pine nuts at a west coast American grocery store called QFC and they were from China. The odd thing is we made pesto with them and we were fine. Then a couple weeks later, I made rosemary pine nut cookies with the same batch of nuts. About 2 days later everything started tasting horrible. I had a banana for breakfast on the first day and thought it had gone bad. Then I thought something was wrong with me. My husband remains unaffected (lucky dog!). So far a vinaigrette salad has been the best to eat–everything else tastes bad while eating and even WORSE afterward. I’m truly relieved that it’s not a tumor or something, but at the same time VERY concerned that this is a fairly new phenomenon and therefore long-term effects are completely unknown.

  • Lorraine
    December 14, 2010 7:45pm

    I’ve been cooking Armenian and Mediterranean dishes with pine nuts since childhood, and for the first time ever am experiencing “Pine Mouth Syndrome”. Several days after sprinkling roasted pine nuts in a salad that I ate over a two-day time period for work lunches, I began to have a lingering, bitter aftertaste a week ago that can only be compared to tasting the way pesticide smells. It is not going away, and in fact today the vile taste is even more prominent.

    Similar to the above stories, as the experience began, I immediately thought I’d accidentally ingested something chemical and began to “Google” medical symptoms, fearing poisoning, brain tumor, liver failure — or even worse, pregnancy! Just as I was imagining an episode of “House” dedicated to my rare and incurable disease, what a relief to find out that it’s just the nuts! I usually use Italian pine nuts, but a recent move to Montana leaves me with fewer shopping choices in the way of exotic foods, so I settled for a tiny overpriced packet from China and roasted them. Never again! I have in the past substitute a combo of Macadamia, Walnut and blanched almonds chopped together as a suitable substitute, so I will stick to that in the future unless I can buy European pine nuts.

  • deb
    December 20, 2010 1:49am

    Thank goodness for the internet…or I would have scheduled an MRI!
    This is unbelievable. I gave my entire family Christmas guest list PINE MOUTH.
    Some were about to go on vacation and were looking forward to lots of yummy food experiences. What if you were about to go on a cruise or wine tasting adventure!
    This might be a break through in weight loss though!

  • Christine
    December 28, 2010 3:37am

    I, too, served a pine nut dish on Christmas Eve, but luckily, only my husband and I have come down with pine mouth. We were eating palm fulls of toasted nuts before we tossed them into our vegetable dish. I noticed a slight bitter taste a day after and my husband 2 days later. It’s been unbearable for the last four days. Everything I eat tastes like I squirted nose spray into the back of my throat and when I drink, everything tastes like soap. Trying to cook for the holiday was impossible, needing my mother to taste what i was cooking to see if foods were ok to serve. We’ve been going crazy trying to figure out what it could be, as we both have the same symptoms. Thanks, Google! This is the first time this has ever happened to us and needless to say, will be staying away from pine nuts from now on.

  • Paty
    January 9, 2011 7:19am

    Hello everyone, I am having the same thing but please can someone tell me if there is anything I can do to stop the bitter taste. I am going crazy

    Thank you

  • Trish
    January 18, 2011 7:09pm

    It really helps to know that I am not suffering alone! Like other people, I thought it was the food that was off and when I realised it must be me, thought the worst. I never usually eat pine nuts, except a few in fish dishes, but opened a packet (bought in Tesco and produced in China) the other day. As it was nearing the sell by date, I thought I might as well eat them up so left them on the side and kept helping myself to a handful. Would normally be sceptical about internet self-diagnosis, but this just cannot be a coincidence. I spoke to the pharmasist at Tesco who was very cynical and unhelpful and told me to see a doctor. Can’t get to see a doctor for over a week (the receptionist seemed very unimpressed) so will have to resort to some of the home remedies suggested. Really do feel that this needs proper investigation but not sure where to start to get things moving. Any ideas??

  • Lisa Antonucci
    January 27, 2011 9:10am

    Thank goodness for everyone who posted comments. I was getting worried as this is day two of me experiencing this horrible metal taste in my throat and decided to do a Google search.

    I never had this problem with pine nuts before, but this is the first time that I purchased them from a different supermarket. Since I used the whole package and threw out the container I have no idea where the nuts came from, but I will we going back to that supermarket to find out. It may be a while before I eat pesto (which I LOVE) again:((