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.

Huh?

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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113 comments

  • 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!

  • 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 …)

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • How curious!

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

    Dylan

  • 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…

  • 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” ( http://www.centres-antipoison.net/index.html ). 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.

  • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    I love you, David.

  • 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.

    Cheers-Romney

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

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

  • …..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!

  • 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: http://veloutesauce.blogspot.com/2009/10/addendum-to-boston-and-seneca-falls.html )

  • 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!

  • Pine nuts are seeds, not nuts.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_nut if you don’t believe me!

    Good info though – thanks!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • David,

    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?!

  • 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.

  • 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!

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

  • 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!

  • 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?

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

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

    http://long.blog.lemonde.fr/2010/02/17/bitter-sweet-life-premiere-partie/

  • 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!

  • 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 !

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • Don’t eat anything from China!

  • 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. http://www.pinonnuts.com/About_Pinon_Nuts.htm

  • Sounds like a good weight loss program.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Laarni

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • It’s called ‘Pine Mouth.’

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Saw this similar story not too long ago…

    http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/01/have-you-ever-experienced-pine-mouth.html

    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) ♫ ♪

  • 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.)

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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 :-)

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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!!

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.