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Feb 21, 2011 08:56 PM

Caution, bad pine nuts = bitter taste in mouth

I thought I would caution people to be careful about the pine nuts they buy. I recently made a delicious rice salad to take for lunches to work. I love pine nuts and used a small container of them for the salad. When I opened up the package I noticed the pine nuts looked different. They were smaller, flatter and whiter compared to the big, rounder, shiny golden pine nuts I am used to using. I knew there were different kinds of pine nuts and did not think anything of it. Three days after eating the salad my partner developed a condition known as “Pine mouth”. He developed an unpleasant strong bitter taste in his mouth that would not go away. It was freaking him out until he discovered what the problem was. It lasted over 5 days, during which everything he ate was bitter. I did not develop any symptoms at all. The symptoms of pine mouth can last for up to 2 weeks. It turns out the pine nuts I used are a particular kind of Chinese white pine nut that causes this. You can read more about pine mouth here:

Be careful to only buy the larger golden European pine nuts.

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  1. Wow, this is new to me, and I love pine nuts. This, combined with the recent exhorbitant price increase will make me think twice (or three times). Thanks for the info.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pine time

      It's a very, very labor-intensive process, so any domestically-sourced nuts are subject to American labor premiums.

      1. re: ferret

        The stratospheric rise this year in the price of pine nuts has nothing to do with American labor costs, but was rather caused by crop damage in Europe--an infestation of beetles, as I understand it.

    2. It doesn't affect everyone , some people are more susceptible than others (but only one way to find out....)

        1. I haven't bought pine nuts in quite a while because of this. How do you know which ones are safe?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Isolda

            I heard that most of the pine nuts in the states now are from Korea because they are cheaper. As I understand it Pine mouth is linked to Chinese and not Korean pine nuts. But I think that it is difficult to distinguish the Korean and Chinese nuts. I think the safest thing to do, aside from not eat pine nuts, is to only use the European nuts. These are easy to distinguish because they are larger, shinier and have more of a yellow golden hue. Wikipedia has pictures and descriptions of both:


            1. re: Ridge

              Pine mouth just happened to me. I posted on the WFD thread on Home Cooking about an "acrid" taste in my mouth, and rabaja kindly pointed out that pine nuts might be the issue, as I had had them in several meals, along with eating a few small handfuls just as-is.

              Sure enough, I checked the package from Trader Joe's - the were sourced from Korea, Russia, and Vietnam. And in looking at the pictures on Wikipedia, these were *definitely* of the Korean shape. So into the trashbin went the rest of the bag. I'm hoping the pine mouth doesn't last much longer as I miss tasting food the way it's supposed to taste!

              1. re: LindaWhit

                I checked the bag I bought at Christmas (we used them as one of many ingredients in a romesco sauce that wasn't very popular- hmm?) and mine are also of the Korea, Russia, and Vietnam origin so I chucked the rest. Glad I found out before I wrecked a favorite couscous salad I like to bring to potlucks thanks!

                1. re: Berheenia

                  You're welcome! I sent an Email to TJs today via their website. Will be interesting to see if I get a response. (Was *not* looking for a replacement - just gave them info on pine mouth and made the suggestion that they source them from Italy or the Mediterranean, even if it means a higher price overall).

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    you'll hear from someone eventually, it just may take a couple of weeks. i think that was about the amount of time that lapsed before i got a reply when i sent an e-mail about a problem with their coffee beans.

          2. I've stopped using pine nuts altogether - subbing almonds or walnuts, whichever is most appropriate, for everything. Had a bad case of pine mouth twice in the past 15 months, and I may be off pine nuts forever. Not worth the risk to me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jeanmarieok

              This has been going on for a few years now, but I new nothing of it. I DO NOW!. Not sure why something hasn't been done about it, probably because it isn't fatal, just very annoying. Our batch that caused the problem were bought that day in a sealed package ("Selection" brand made for Metro Brands and sold at Metro stores.) They are a product of China. They should be removed from the shelves, and treated seriously considering all the reporting that has been done over the past number of years.

              1. re: dspence

                I complained several times and sent e-mails to the market where I bought the pine nuts that gave my partner pine mouth but the last time I checked they still have not been pulled. Very surprising given that it’s an ultra organic market and in the past they have discontinued items for what seemed like trivial reasons.