Death by Pine Nuts

ttar_pinenuts_03_h_launch “Do you ever have a day,” I asked Matt casually during dinner, “when everything you eat or drink leaves a horrible, bitter taste in your mouth?  That doesn’t go away?”

He stared at me in disbelief.

I started to dismiss my own claim as silly until I took a small bite of plain bread and a sip of wine and grimaced.  “Like, really, really, disgustingly bitter?”   He shook his head no.  I began to panic.

Assuming I was probably dying, I Googled “everything tastes bitter” just to find out what my exact cause of death would be.  Because it might be nice to know so that I could warn Matt about it.  You know, “Well, first there’s the bitter taste, honey, and then my nose will turn inside out, and only then will my heart fly out my right ear – so now you know, and Dr. Google says there should be time to get out of the way before that heart thing happens – just watch the nose.”

Imagine my surprise when one of the top hits was this blog post by a Scottish botanist who experienced the  very same thing – and his research into the problem implicated those most innocent-looking of legumes: pine nuts.  Yes, that’s right.  Pine nuts.   Further, he linked to this paragraph of a Wikipedia entry that mentions the “risks” involved in ingesting pine nuts, which “can cause serious taste disturbances” (but do not pose a serious health hazard, thank goodness).  Now, I don’t believe everything I read, and I know that neither a blog post nor a Wikipedia entry are considered solid primary sources.  However.  If you read that blog post, note how many comments there are as of today: 256, people.  256.  Since last October.  And that’s before I’ve taken the time to leave my own response.  Having read through the first two pages of comments, I see that many people have experienced all the same symptoms as mine, so I have no doubt whatsoever that this is the problem.

This would be a good time to mention that I had quite a few pine nuts on Saturday night.  I made capellini with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and pine nuts.  I had forgotten the little nuts existed until this weekend; I don’t think I’d had any in 2 years.  I just might’ve dipped my hand into the container once or twice while I was cooking (because OH YUM!) and also sprinkled them liberally on my pasta dish.  I’ve been known to snack on almonds while cooking and I suppose I just substituted the pine nuts because they were there. Turns out that backfired.

So, according to what I’ve read tonight, my symptoms of this bizarre reaction are typical, having emerged 1-3 days after eating the pine nuts.  I have a constant bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  At first I thought a cavity had cracked, until I remembered that I have no more silver fillings.  All food or drink tastes absolutely disgusting, except water.  It has gotten increasingly worse through the day, as others reported.  I tried one commenter’s suggestion and drank tonic water with lime before eating tonight and it did seem to help as I ate it, but the taste came right back afterwards.  At least I got to enjoy the food for a few minutes, though.

The best part?  This will last 7-20 days.  You heard me.

But at least I’m not dying.

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13 responses to “Death by Pine Nuts

  1. 20 DAYS? Holy cow.

    I just ate some pine nuts yesterday. Should I eat a whole bunch of delicious things tonight just in case?!

  2. Yeah, you just might…because when Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream tastes horrible, you know you’re in trouble.

    I’ll just focus on the weight loss opportunity.

  3. Okay, I eat pine nuts all the time. Cook with them all the time. Buy the great big bags at Costco and keep them in the fridge all the time. And I have never experienced these symptoms nor ever heard anyone talk about symptoms like these. And my extended family (both sides!!) all eat lots of pine nuts. It’s just a common ingredient for us, for pastas, for baking…

    How odd.

    But I believe you.

  4. Well, according to the blog and Wikipedia, it’s only a couple types of pine nuts that people occasionally have this reaction to. Mine were from Trader Joe’s, and there were a few blog commenters who had also gotten them there. It’s thought that the smaller varieties, and in particular ones that came from China, may cause more problems. I’ve certainly had them a lot in the past with no ill effect. It’s so crazy.

  5. How horrible! I guess you’ll feel just over the moon when the reaction is finally over, though? That to look forward to?

  6. Wow, that’s weird. Glad you got to the bottom of it (the internet is amazing!) My sister is allergic to pine nuts, so we don’t eat them at any family gatherings (she is also allergic to pine trees). Hope you fall on the 7 days side of the lasting time, instead of 20!

  7. Sounds like you need a miracle berry! We may have some left over in the freezer, if you are interested!

  8. Ha! Yes, Becky, we decided it was like the opposite of the Miracle Berry!! I don’t think I’ll mess with my taste buds any further, though. ;-0

  9. This happened to me two weeks ago. It only lasted 4 or 5 days, but it was pretty hard core. By the end of the third day, though, I was able to eat foods with a very strong taste, like salsa or the darker rums.

  10. wow – never heard of this before. I guess I don’t eat too many pine nuts…hope you get your taste buds back before 20 days! yikes!

  11. Bizarre! Hope yours doesn’t last anywhere near as long. But, yes, what an amazing weight loss opportunity! Now all you need is a celebrity spokesmodel…

  12. I too developed a gross aftertaste when eating or drinking anything. Ice tea or sweets was the worst !! And I went the leaky dental filling route until I found “pine mouth” on the ‘net and couldn’t believe it. My ol’ lady made a dish with the small dark pine nuts on Saturday…my symptoms didn’t start until Monday noon. Tuesday everything tasted like road kill. The only thing that tasted OK during the worst of it was diet green tea. It’s now Thursday evening and the worst seems to be over. I also have had a case of sunburn-like skin from head to toe with no visual symptoms. Make sure your pine nuts come from Italy in the future, Vince.

  13. My wife and I are going through this right now. Please tell me it didn’t last more than 5 days for anyone. Maybe it’s a good time to go on a fasting diet.

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