Bitter Taste From Bad Pine Nuts

For almost an entire week, I’ve encountered a terrible bitter taste in my mouth. Coffee, sweets, crackers and pretty much anything else I ate tasted bitter! For the first couple of days, I was worried that I had diabetes (from all the sweets I’ve been eating) or the flu, but I didn’t have any other symptom.

So, I decided to take my concern to favorite search engine to see what the problem was and came across several blog posts and a couple of unreliable sources mentioning a scientific paper back in 2001 reporting about the “Pine Mouth.” My thoughts quickly went to last Tuesday when I ordered a pesto pasta topped with pine nuts at Pasta Paradiso in San Francisco’s Financial District. As described by Wikipedia,

“A small minority of pine nuts can cause taste disturbances, developing 1–3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. A bitter, metallic taste is described. Though very unpleasant, there are no lasting effects. This phenomenon was first described in a scientific paper in 2001. Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as ‘pine mouth’.”

Many blog posts blame China for producing these bad nuts, but I’ve read even pine nuts from Trader Joes, who claims to package pine nuts from Korea, Russia, or Vietnam, were also infected.

As reported by, here are some recommended guidelines to follow when purchasing pine nuts:

  • Buy the more expensive Italian pine nuts and make sure it’s from a store with a high turnover.
  • Pine nuts turn rancid very quickly, so buy in small quantities and store them well-wrapped in the refrigerator for short periods of time, or in the freezer if you need to store them for an extended period of time.  Just make sure you keep those suckers cold!

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