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Pine Mouth: Mysterious, bitter aftertaste from pine nuts

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I'm writing a story for The Baltimore Sun about people who experience a bitter or metallic taste in their mouths after eating pine nuts. It can last for two weeks. Seems to be associated with Chinese and/or Korean varieties of the nuts. Any sufferers out there?

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  1. Me! A few days ago (week?) I woke up in the morning and had a weird bitter taste in the back of my mouth, sort of like the rear 1/3 of my tongue. I figured it had to do with a lozenge I had taken (which I had taken because my mouth had been weirdly slightly inflamed for a few days). Anyway, it didn't go away a couple days later and I noticed things like a chocolate bar seemed to enhance the bitterness. So onto google I went and read about pine mouth, and I had been cooking with, and randomly snacking on pine nuts the week or so before that. Safeway brand "Whole Pine Nuts - Baking nuts". Product of China. The bitterness has probably decreased to about 1/2 in the 3-4 days since I looked it up, and unlike some of what I've read my affliction wasn't *terrible* just slightly annoying.

    1. I am a local reader of the Baltimore Sun. I am so relieved to see that this will be a Sun article. I think many more people have experienced this, but don't have the resources to explain why they experience this terrible taste. This will draw more attention to it!

      For the past two nights, I have been making green beans with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. This is my favorite vegetable. I confess, I have done some snacking in between throwing them in the pan. Today at breakfast, I couldn't stomach my english muffin. I was convinced that cleaning products had gotten into them since they were on the counter, near where I was spraying. That's what it tasted like, cleaning products. All day it has been unbearable. Every time I begin to chew, it all comes back, leaving a lingering taste for at least 20 minutes. Even when I had a glass of wine.

      Two years ago, the same thing happened, sending me to a trip to the doctor, convinced I had an allergy. The doctor had no explanation for me, leaving me feeling like I had made this up. I remember it lasting for at least a week.

      The strange thing is, I have eaten pine nuts in between episodes, leaving me to wonder what it is. My pine nuts were purchased at Giant and are of the Chinese variety. I am on day one of the bitter taste in my mouth and not looking forward to eating this week.

      1. Hi -- don't know whether or not you're still looking for people who experienced this... I'm having a bout of "pine mouth" right now. I made some pesto sauce over the weekend and, while I was making it, I tossed a couple of handfuls of the pine nuts in my mouth. Everyone ate the pesto, but it seems that I'm the only one who developed this horrible after-taste - and it's truly horrible - so I'm going to assume that quantity might be a factor. It's odd that the bitter after-taste develops a couple days after eating the pine nuts. I was ready to make an appointment with my doctor, but glad I did a little research on the Internet before I did, because I'm certain it's the pine nuts that's causing the problem (and my doc would have probably thought I was crazy). I bought the pine nuts at the local grocery store (SaveMart) but didn't retain the package, so I have no clue about their origin -- whether they're from China or Korea or ??? I'm on day 2 of "pine mouth" and I'm feeling very hungry. Everything tastes disgusting, so I"m just eating a bare minimum to stave off the growing hunger... Ugh!

        1. I'm suffering from a horrible bitter taste in my mouth and my wife was ready to drag me to the emergency room for cadmium poisoning until we read all of the posts on this being a side effect from pine nuts. We had a big salad with pine nuts my wife roasted over the stove for dinner 2 days ago. I had the leftover pine nuts as a snack at work the next day. Now (2 days after the first batch) almost everything I eat tastes VERY bitter. Pineapple and other sweet acidic things fare better than other items, but not by much. The strange thing is that my wife isn't suffering the same symptoms. Perhaps it is because I had the extra pine nuts as a snack the following day. Weird...

          1. I stopped eating pine nuts a few years ago because of this. I thought at the time they were just rancid nuts but the experience of having a lingering bitter aftertaste in my mouth put me off them for good. I make my pesto without them and no longer add them to salads, etc.

            1. there is a discussion about that on the Quebec (including montreal) baord. search for "pine nuts"

              1. The pine nuts used by European and Middle Eastern cooks are from a different species of pine tree. Unlike pine nuts from China or Korea, these usually don't cause a lingering bitter taste in the mouth.

                1. Hi from Aussie. I was so glad to find out about pine mouth today. My taste problem began on Saurday and finally seemed to have cleared by Wednesday. Then on Friday it returned. Yuk. I have similar symptoms to your other contacts. I innocently bought pine nuts in the week before the Saturday to make a homemade pesto. I also sprinkled them on my salads a few times and I am sure my recurrance occured because I pigged out on them on the Thursday Silly me! Now I know this horrible taste will last about another 4-5 days.The packet stated that the nuts were packaged in Austalia from imported product. I might ring the company to ask from where the nuts came.

                  1. i've had pine mouth for about two days now - from pine nuts purchased within the last mouth or so at trader joe's.

                    a question for chowhounds out there from the curious cook side of me: so this pine mouth has a bitter taste, right. has anyone found any foods that combat the bitterness (or even complement it)? I'm thinking about the flavor bible (which i don't own) but wondering what that book suggests for complementing bitter flavors? if i find any good combinations i'll post about them, but for now i'm just hoping this goes away by thanksgiving.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: aahnnt

                      I purchased pine nuts from the local Sprouts Market in North Texas, in bulk, since it's holiday season and time for my yearly pignoli cookies (the basil plants all died in the last freeze, so no pesto...actually, thankfully). I'm experiencing exactly the same thing and it all started a few days ago after I'd had my first few cookies. Okay, maybe 8.

                      When I first actually noticed the horrid bitter taste at the back of my throat and tongue however, was after my first few bites of turkey from Christmas dinner (Thanksgiving was interrupted this year, so we had turkey for Christmas instead). It was like the damned bird had been injected with triclosan or orange zest and pink peppercorns. That was three days ago and it wasn't until earlier this afternoon that I thought I might have gotten rid of the taste.

                      I thought there could have been something wrong with the turkey, but nobody else at the table had the same reaction. So, I thought, maybe it was the ingredients in the saline nasal spray I'd been using because of the dry heater air, which are as follows: Purified water, Sodium Chloride, Disodium Phosphate, Phenylcarbinol, Monosodium Phosphate, Benzalkonium Chloride. I've always hated this particular brand because of the aftertaste and sometimes irritating feeling I'm left with after using. AND, I noticed, after I used it, the bitterness increased. Could be an additional factor, but I've never had such a reaction to foods before for days after I used it in the past. It seems like every time I use the spray, the bitter taste is amplified.

                      I have been a bit frustrated about this lousy, pervasive taste and I do cook a lot, so the impact has been tremendous, including affecting my ability to really gauge what I'm doing. So, aside from habit, this afternoon I got out the Water Pik and went to town, using plain old warm tap water. Then Listerine mouthwash. Then I brushed for about 12 minutes with Crest Pro-Health. I didn't taste anything but eucalyptol and alcohol and whatever's in that toothpaste, so I thought I was home free. Apparently not so.

                      I was making stock from the turkey carcass this afternoon and decided to use part to make some soup to prepare for the cold days ahead. Again, the bitter taste returned, so I was back to thinking it was the turkey, but I also remembered that I had eaten some of the bits of turkey from the stock while I was straining the broth and everything tasted fine! I felt like I was losing my mind and I certainly lost my appetite, so passed on dinner until around 9PM when I was so hungry that I just thoughtlessly reached into the fridge for a bite of turkey breast meat from the same bird that had first given me the bad taste in my mouth. AGAIN! Again with the nauseating bitterness, so I had all but given up and was ready to write to the county extension agent and have been looking up toxins produced in poultry processing plants, and "what does cyanide taste like", until I ended up here.

                      Pine nuts. Friggin 3 and 4 day aftermath from pine nuts. I'm now wondering why in the world, after pets have died from foods processed in China and toys are coated in toxic paints from China (and/or Korea?), WHY are we receiving any foods at ALL from China? And how is one to know? Due diligence is becoming an all-day, everyday, full-time affair.

                      The only relief I've had from the taste has been, of all things? Canada Dry DIET ginger ale. Or maybe I'm just desperate and want to believe it's working. I don't know anymore.

                      1. re: IlFinocchio

                        My husband just had a similar experience after eating pine nuts we bought in bulk from sprouts.

                        www.foodhuntersguide.com

                      2. re: aahnnt

                        This is what I've found helps my pine mouth:

                        Brush teeth, cheeks, tongue with a baking soda and salt blend (2 parts salt to one part baking soda - thanks to my sister the nurse). Avoid toothpaste, it leaves a terrible taste! The baking soda/salt neutralizes everything and works like a charm for me. One day I did rinse with Listerine and that seemed ok, but not the best solution.

                        Foods that don’t make the taste more pronounced: spicy and flavorful as well as vinegar.

                        A while back, I made some Santa Fe Green Chile with fresh roasted hatch green chiles. Most is in my freezer, but I happened to have some this week with homemade crispy chile rellenos. Surprisingly, the super spicy factor (I have an insane tolerance for spicy foods) worked in my favor. I whipped up a batch of homemade chicken soup with root veggies and brussel sprouts…couldn’t stomach it until I added a good amount of my green chile to it…definitely palatable now.

                        Vinegar – I’ve had several kinds this week including rice vinegar (in nuac chom), champagne pear vinegar (with olive oil for dipping), and balsamic (on salads). All of this has tasted good and not left my stomach rolling afterwards.

                        Thai and Vietnamese seem to have worked for me as well. I think it’s because of the spicy factor and the vinegar. Win-win here.

                        So, it looks like my diet will include Mexican foods and Asian foods until the pine mouth goes away (it’s been 6 days).

                        Additionally, sparkling mineral water instead of plain water. I’m thinking the carbonation and sodium probably does something similar to the baking soad/salt blend that I am brushing my teeth with – neutralizes the nastiness.

                        Things to avoid: toothpaste, milk, pizza (cheese), bland salty foods (pretzels, Chex Mix, plain bread), anything sweet (seriously disgusting) including dried fruit and chocolate, wine.

                        1. re: denacjustice

                          Ah. I was actually thinking spicy and even came upon your post by Googling pine mouth spicy. I came down with it this morning. Repulsive! Couldn't touch a bite. Decided to reheat my chx ench and drown them in Sontava habanero sauce and Chile Pasilla salsa (luckily I also have an insane tolerance for spicy foods). Sweet relief! I was able to eat and I have no bitter taste. After I ate, I went upstairs and brushed with baking soda and salt. Yes, this is good. I don't think mineral water is an improvement over plain tap -- but neither is as bad as eating because they don't linger in the mouth like food does and they just don't have as much taste of their own. Someone suggested rinsing spicy with very sweet drink. I tried that -- FAIL!!!! I will try vinegar as well.

                          Actually, six days of spicy Mexican and Asian sounds fantastic to me, but I'm thinking I'd better get myself on a Zantac regime just to prepare my stomach . . .

                          This seriously sucks, no?

                          1. re: denacjustice

                            denacjustice: you are right. I doused my felafel/feta/tahini-yogurt on lavash with sambal oelek and guess what? It was fabulous. Hot pepper totally neutralizes whatever is going on. It didn't just cover it up: I could still taste the other flavors like the feta. But no disgusting taste. Then brushed with the baking soda/salt mix you recommended afterwards, and I am very happy to say I've eaten two full meals. Which I know if more than people who aren't using the hot peppers are eating, because anything else I've put in my mouth today just to test has caused an absolutely revolting taste. Thank God for hot peppers!

                            1. re: denacjustice

                              Hey, so I found out about this site from another site. This is now day 2 of this horribleness. I absolutely HATE bitterness. This started 2 days after eating a pesto pasta that contained pine nuts. I was the one that ate most of the nuts and am the only one having "pine mouth" as some people call it.

                              I have found that eating something minty helps put the taste off about half an hour, or until I try to eat something salty, like a burger. I'd also had a lollipop earlier and that held back the taste for quite a while.

                              I think I will try having spicy foods as I can take a lot of spiciness. I'll probably have to sneak wasabi or sweet chilli sauce into my foods for school now.

                              1. re: Sharlolness

                                I've had this happen and I nearly "poisoned" friends and family too!
                                about two years ago, I got bulk pine nuts at the local grocery store to make pignoli cookies to put on a Christmas cookie trays for family and friends'

                                I generally will snack on one or two and as others have experienced, I didn't have the horrible effect for about a day. the only person I'd delivered the cookies to was my Dad... so I told him to dump the pignolis' he didn't listen and ate a few and suffered the same fate
                                it took what seemed like forever to get rid of that lingering acrid taste in my mouth

                                I'd heard about the chinese pine nuts and now I seek out pine nuts that are middle eastern or Italian

                          2. Sounds like a magic weight loss formula infomercial will appear any day now ! ;-D
                            Seriously, though, if it could be determined that the Asian pine nuts don't have any dangerous contamination, they could be a good dieting tool.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious

                              well that sounds like a plan or save money and heat a butter knife on the stove and brand the tongue ouch! really what we need to find out if infact middle eastern and europeans pinenuts in fact do not harbor this side effect

                            2. I never had this problem with pine nuts, but I have been doing a lot of taste-testing with pine nuts, since I love to eat them as a snack. I have found that the most flavorful ones are only the organic ones. I don't know if this has anything to do with the metallic taste (or lack of). Anyway, I have found that the pine nuts from Italy and Spain are completely a different type of nut- they are larger and less strong than the ones from Asia. I have found that the ones from Korea (non-organic ones) are less flavorful and taste a little bit like chemicals. Has there been any research done on the amount of pesticides on pine nuts? Are they treated (as shelled almonds are in the USA---horrible!)?

                              1. yessss....very strange. I've been eating pine nuts mix into my salads for several years now and never had the strange lingering aftertaste like I have for the past 3 days. I'm wondering why all of the sudden the sensation occured.

                                1. I'm suffering! Unfortunately I don't know the origin of the pine nuts. I bought some pesto in a grocery store in London. My symptoms came on the next day and lasted 6 days. Is it safe to eat pine nuts? What is going on?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: medorand

                                    I've had pine nut mouth for a few days and the only thing that has worked for me is spicy foods. I mean seriously spicy. Not really sure why, it somehow distracts your tastebuds or something. (I'm making that up, it's not scientific.) Other than that though, everything I eat or drink tastes awful.

                                  2. After a couple of bouts of this unpleasantness, I now buy my pine nuts directly from Lebanon.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      Good idea.

                                    2. After decades of eating pine nuts, I apparently came down with "pine mouth" for the first time last week. Opened a new package of Western Family pine nuts, product of China, exp. date Nov 5 2010, on a Friday, sprinkled them over a salad, and by Sunday everything I ate tasted bitter, especially sweet or mild foods. Yuck. It diminished through the week, and by Thursday was all gone. I had never heard of pine mouth before, and since I had no other symptoms, I'm only assuming that was the issue. I'm concerned about why the pine nuts do this.

                                      1. Happened to me! I wish I could recall if it was last year or much earlier this year but it was definitely winter and it was more than awful. It lasted well over a month, I had no idea what was happening, even my fingers tasted bitter. I went to the doctor and paid for a "let me know if it hasn't stopped after another month" visit. I am only going to buy organic pine nuts from now on.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                          I had the same problem with pine mouth a few months ago. My daughter and I made a batch of pine nut cookies, and we both had bitterness for over a week. Others that ate one or two of the cookies didn't seem to have a reaction. I researched it on the internet and determined that I didn't need a visit to the doctor. I had purchased the nuts at Trader Joe's in L.A. They refunded my money, but assured me that the nuts they sell are not from China. I have eaten pine nuts all my life, and this was my first experience with this problem...very weird.

                                          1. re: critter101

                                            I'm glad you were able to research it and save yourself a doctor's visit. I researched it but no one had posted anything at that time--I guess it hadn't really started happening much. Just before it started to go away and after my doctor's visit, I looked it up using the same search words as before and, lo and behold, there were tons of references to "mouth tastes bitter"; all of which were related to pine nuts.

                                        2. Harold McGee finally got around to addressing the issue on his blog. Turns out the problem may be related to the species of pine. Take-away quote: "avoid small rounded nuts from China."
                                          http://news.curiouscook.com/2010/09/p...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: carswell

                                            I have eaten small pine nuts from London Borough Market and they were lovely but the day after I have the bitter aftertaste. Everything I eat tastes most peculiar. So glad I googled it and found the reason why. I will give the nuts to the birds and hope the bitterness will soon go awy.

                                          2. I had some mixture of nuts that a friend of mine gave me, so while i am at work i did have the nuts for snack. Two days ago i have this bitter metallic taste. I thought i have been suffering from something, i was so worried so i google and read some post of people who have experience the same thing. I am so worried because i cannot eat anything and the bitter taste stays in my tongue all the time. I read one mail saying you can drink liquid aloe vera. I will try it when i get home because i don't have any appetite to eat and cannot taste food. If i drink water i still have the bitter taste. You said it will last for 2 weeks, at least there is some people out there feeling the same way as me. In future i will not eat the mixture of nuts i will be very careful. It is an awful feeling, right now that i am typing i can taste the bitterness in my tongue just tried to eat jam sandwich but didn't go away. I don't wish anybody to experience what iam experiencing now.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: genphil

                                              The effect seems to depend on the amount you consume. I ate a bunch, about 1/2 cups' worth over 24 hours. The bitterness expressed itself about 36 hours later, was unbearably intense for a couple of days and then did a slow-fade over another week or so. At its worse, it destroyed my appetite (once I'd figured out that I'd not contracted some terrible disease, I thought about going to the store where I'd bought the nuts, buying up the remaining stock and marketing them as a surefire weight-loss aid). After several days, the flavour of food, especially spicy food like curries, was enough to cover the bitterness while masticating, though not the bitter aftertaste. So, as far as I can tell, the only thing to do is tough it out.

                                              1. re: carswell

                                                hi, thanks for the info. I thought as well that it will be good for people who wants to lose weght. It might be a good idea. I will try it with my friend who has been overweight for so long and have tried everything and it didn't work. You never know it might be something of beneficial to people wanting to lose weight and a money making thing, who knows??

                                            2. So glad to know I'm not crazy, poisoned or otherwise. I made a wonderful chicken pesto pasta salad for a shower this weekend. The dish was a hit and the pine nuts tasted wonderful at the time. The bad taste is truly horrible - like the back of my mouth has been sprayed with a pesiticide - a metallic taste would be good at this point. Mine is worse when my mouth is empty though - I'd love to skip a few meals to drop a few pounds - but I just keep putting things in my mouth (except coffee - that was bad) to cover the horrible taste. I can't wait to get home from work and try the baking soda and salt wash. Thanks for all the posts.

                                              1. Ate some gelato made with smallish pine nuts and other nuts on Saturday, and late this afternoon, I started tasting a metallic taste. Hopefully it won't last 2 weeks. How annoying.
                                                Interesting toxicology article on this topic.
                                                http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals...

                                                and this recent newspaper article:

                                                http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddri...

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: prima

                                                  I can only speak for myself but it took 2 weeks for the bitterness to fade completely. Wondering if anyone has and Italian online source for PIne Nuts?

                                                2. Am I safe with organic pine nuts? It sounds like it may be a specific genus of pine nuts that causes the problem. The basil plants are beginning to look harvestable and its time for fresh pesto!

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: rocrock

                                                    Quite possibly not--it seems to be species according to the articles I've read in my recent search to figure out what was causing the foul taste in my mouth. The Dry Toasted Pignolias I purchased from Trader Joes earlier in the week (product of Russia, Korea, and Vietnam) have done me in. I've never had pine nut issues before, and these are definitely smaller than the pine nuts I've had in the past.

                                                    Just tossed a batch of homemade pesto that had them--so much for our first big basil harvest of the summer.

                                                    1. re: PollyG

                                                      For just this reason, I just made my pesto with roasted walnuts instead.

                                                      1. re: pine time

                                                        That's what I've been doing, with just about any recipe that calls for pine nuts. I'm terrified of pine mouth and don't want to assume the larger ones are safe. I'm guessing someone will figure out exactly what's going on, and we'll know what to avoid in the near future. But if I were a betting woman, I'd put my money on some sort of banned pesticide spray in the countries where these nasty nuts are grown.

                                                        1. re: Isolda

                                                          I have read several articles that indicate the pine mouth/metal mouth is from old or slightly rancid nuts. I use the chinese kind all the time, and have experienced the aforementioned disorder twice, but not since I have stored the nuts in the fridge/freezer.
                                                          The nuts responsible were not tasting rancid, but I think they may have been old, as they were stored on the shelf.

                                                          1. re: nanonano8

                                                            I had *just* opened the bag of Trader Joe's pine nuts -- so I don't think age could have been a factor.

                                                            1. re: Glencora

                                                              it could have been on the shelf, hot conditions in transit, or some other factor. I don't understand why, but I use the chinese nuts all the time, and have had the bad taste only twice, from nuts that had been stored on my shelf. Perhaps there is another food that causes the reaction in conjunction with the pine nuts?

                                                            2. re: nanonano8

                                                              I have not seen any articles pointing to age as the cause, but MANY implicating the Asian variety of the nut. I suspect your observations were a case of coincidence but you won't know for yourself unless/until your chilled nuts give you trouble. I am surprised that TJ's is still carrying them. In view of their generous return policy, chain-wide they must have had a lot of complaints. Given their demographic and affordable price, I would think they are the largest retail purveyor of pine nuts in the U.S.

                                                        2. re: PollyG

                                                          So sad that you wasted your basil harvest! I just got pine mouth last week from the dry toasted Trader Joe's pine nuts. Makes me mad because I'd never bought them before -- I always get them from the local produce market and I've never had any problems.

                                                          1. re: Glencora

                                                            I'm making pesto now with walnuts. I won't use the pine nuts from China, and the ones from the Mediterranean are hard to find and are ridiculously expensive. I've never experienced the dreaded pine mouth, but I'd rather not risk getting it from bad Asian nuts.