Pine Mouth!

Has anyone ever been afflicted by or known anyone afflicted by "pine mouth"? In case you are not familiar, it is something that can be contracted by eating pine nuts and the symptoms are a chemical/metallic taste for 5-10 days, every time you eat something!
It is possibly the worst side effect I've ever had from eating/drinking, I would dare say food poisoning included.

My question: If you have had it, do you still eat pine nuts? Is there a sure fire way to eat pine nuts and not run the risk? I love them but I'm scared to eat them ever again.

  • Posted by: Tony S
  • April 25, 2011
  • 2714 views
  • 19 Comments

18 Comments

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sdebrango
sdebrango April 25, 2011

Wow, I made pesto the other day and was eating the pine nuts I had left over. I have the very same symptoms. I had no idea what it was from and have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what I ate that could have caused this. I just went to my refrigerator and threw away the rest of the nuts. I made the pesto for a friend I hope they didn't have problems. I hope that horrible metallic taste goes away for you soon, Still have it myself. I also felt sick to my stomach for a while.

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anne_calvert
anne_calvert April 25, 2011

Tony - I agree with you! Pine Mouth is one of the worst food/drink afflictions.. well, at least it is for someone who loves to savor their meals. I experienced Pine Mouth only once before... and it was after using pine nuts purchased in bulk for a batch of pesto as well as to top two separate meals. The bitter taste followed about 2 days later. Terrible. I shied away from pine nuts for months after that... but have recently started trying them out again.... in very small doses. (Still no pesto though...) So far, I haven't experienced it again...

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Kristen Miglore
Kristen Miglore April 25, 2011

I've never had it happen myself, but a couple people have described their symptoms to me (my brother once threw a dinner party he couldn't enjoy because everything tasted like battery acid). It's one of the strangest phenomenons I've ever heard of -- but, luckily, it's temporary and goes away on its own. How long did yours last?

More good news, from Wikipedia:
"The Nestle Research Centre has hypothesized that a particular species of Chinese pine nuts, Pinus armandii, is the cause of the problem. The suspect species of pine nuts are smaller, duller, and more rounded than typical pine nuts. This finding has recently been confirmed."

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Tony S
Tony S April 25, 2011

Thanks everyone. To answer the "how long" question from Kristen, the taste lasted about 7 days. Sorry for the bad news sdebrango!

Still don't know if I can bring myself to eat them again even though this was about 8 months ago.

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AntoniaJames
AntoniaJames April 25, 2011

I've had it and I agree, it is horrible. I had to skip two contests last year because I could not eat anything, much less taste test, for about two weeks. It was torture, as you'll all understand.) I did some research at the time, and learned that pine nuts from Asia tend to be the culprit. There was no limitation to China, but it may be that the Chinese variety is planted elsewhere. Since then, I actually haven't eaten any, except to taste and confirm that the $38 per pound variety at my local independent grocery store doesn't seem to cause the problem. When researching the problem, I also learned that it affects some people more than others, and some people have no reaction at all. I am terrified of confirming the theory reported by the Nestle company, simply because the adverse effects of making a mistake would be so unpleasant. I'm glad to see this as a topic here. ;o)

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sdebrango
sdebrango April 25, 2011

It is torture, I am so glad I saw this thanks Tony. This just happened and the awful chemical/metallic taste is still in my mouth. I can't taste test anything and have lost the desire to eat. Only sweet stuff even tastes remotely good (luckily I love sweets). Now I know and it will be a very long time if ever before I use pine nuts in anything. Was planning on bracciola but it will be without the pine nuts this time. Thanks again,

Suzanne

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Tony S
Tony S April 25, 2011

Great point Suzanne. I forgot to mention that anyone reading this should note that sweet things are about the only thing that does not overpower your palate with that horrible metallic taste. I found chocolate especially appetizing.

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sdebrango
sdebrango April 25, 2011

Yes my cadbury cream egg yesterday was especially tasty. Made for an interesting Easter meal.

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prettyPeas
prettyPeas April 25, 2011

This is horrible, I feel for all of you who have experienced this. I've been reading about it for a couple years and am surprised that it took until now to actually do a study to figure out the cause. The study here: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2011/316789/ found that of the 16 samples from consumers with pine nut mouth that they tested, all contained the Pinus armandii species. Not exactly definitive proof, but a step in the right direction. Figure 1 might be useful if you are attempting to distinguish Pinus armandii from the edible varieties visually. They are described as "rounded and have grayish-beige color" wheras edible pine nuts are "larger with a length of 10–13?mm and width of 6–8?mm. The color was brighter, more yellowish without grey tones." http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2011/316789/fig1/

I don't know if I've just had bad luck , or am especially sensitive to nut rancidity, but since I've found most supermarket pine nuts to taste slightly rancid I've used walnuts in my pesto genovese. It tastes great to me, with the added benefit of being less expensive.

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Sam1148
Sam1148 April 25, 2011

I'm going to have to look much close at pine nuts now.
Sometimes I can't find them, except in the bulk section.

I substitute walnuts or sunflower seeds depending on the application.
I actually like the toasted sunflower seeds better on salad application and the
Absurdly Addictive Asparagus recipe posted on this site. http://www.food52.com/recipes...

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pierino
pierino April 25, 2011

Fascinating conversation. I've never experienced it myself but it's good to know about. For what it's worth all imported food items, bulk or packaged, for sale here are supposed to be labled with a COO; "country of origin".

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Midge
Midge April 26, 2011

This is fascinating. I've noticed that its getting harder to find pine nuts grown around the Mediterranean. A packaged brand in the produce section of my local market that I buy regularly is now sourced from China instead of Turkey. My WF bulk section also just carries the Asian variety. No thanks!

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Kayb
Kayb April 26, 2011

I've never experienced it, but I rarely buy pine nuts b/c of the cost; as someone said upthread, I use walnuts instead for pesto, and either sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or pecans in toasted applications. I like pine nuts, but at upward of 8 bucks a pound plus the "pine mouth" threat (puts me in mind of swigging from a PineSol bottle -- what a visual!), I believe I'll stick to more plebian nut fare!

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Greenstuff
Greenstuff April 26, 2011

I've been watching this issue ever since David Lebovitz went through it and wrote about it on his blog. I've never had it myself, but I did go through a real negative reaction to pesto some years ago. At the time, I thought it had more to do with the many different basils I was eating as well as all the pine nuts. Now, I keep to a narrower range of basils. But I find myself even more leery of pine nuts. I haven't (until now) told anyone, but I've mostly switched to walnuts in pesto. I also avoided pine nuts when I riffed off kaykay's Absurdly Addictive Asparagus, substituting slivered almonds (which were great, but a different flavor). Fortunately, the Asian pine nut varieties look pretty different from the Mediterranean one, so I really avoid those, regardless of their lower, but still expensive, price.

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anne
anne June 2, 2014

I just asked about this, and have had the same thing happen. It is from eating the Chinese nuts, not the Italian. Even my Whole Foods however, sells nothing but pine nuts from China. It is really troubling. I have been avoiding recipes that include them which is a bummer because they can be so damn good!

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Lee Smith-Moir
Lee Smith-Moir June 23, 2014

Pine mouth comes from cheap, chinese pine nuts. They are smaller - don't buy them!

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scruz
scruz April 10, 2018

i'm not sure of the flavor, but we evidently produce high quality pine nuts in this country. while on a couple of road trips, we went through some gorgeous dry are pine forests in both new mexico and nevada. i looked up the forests out of curiosity when i returned and there are harvesters of the pine nuts that sell them on line. they are pricey but it might be worth trying out if the chinese ones are a problem.

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creamtea
creamtea April 10, 2018

Oh no, I served toasted pine nuts on passover! wonder if toasting helps--I toasted them first and no one in the family has had symptoms (hope my guests can say the same). I still have some left in the package, which says the COO is China. I have a half-package left (and they were not inexpensive).

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dinner at ten
dinner at ten April 11, 2018

Chinese pine nuts can be fine -- it's just one of the multiple types of pine trees that grows there that produces the pine mouth-inducing kind of nuts (P. armandii) . A visual guide to the good and bad nuts here: https://pinenutsyndrome.wordpress.com/pine-nut-species/
I had pine nut mouth years ago (awful for about a week) and I think the symptom onset for both of us who ate the bad batch was about 24 h, so if you are still tasting everything normally your pine nuts are probably fine. I have read that toasting does NOT destroy the problematic compound.

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