I continue to receive emails and comments about this topic, the bitter taste some people experience after eating pine nuts. Today I finally had a chance to ask colleague Harold McGee what he’s discovered about the syndrome and he responded that it’s pretty much the same information as I’ve posted here. He wrote about it on his blog in September; you can find it here. I’m still compiling a list of sources for domestic and European pine nuts, so check back in a few days. And as always, if you have sources please let me know so I can include.
Shortly after Seasonal Pantry was published in yesterday’s paper, the responses began to arrive in my Mail inbox.
In the column, “Odd Bitter Flavor’s Origin: Pine Nuts,” I describe a persistent bitter taste in my mouth that seemed to appear out of nowhere and lingered long enough for me to consider all sorts of terrifying explanations. Eventually, it just went away and I didn’t think of it again, not until I began the column on pine nuts. As I searched my iMac for anything I may have written and forgotten, I came across an email from a reader describing a similar experience and asking if I might know what was up. She was able to connect the bitterness with some pine nuts she had eaten and so I set out to research it. Bingo!
It seems we were not alone in our experience. There is a huge amount of information on line about what people are calling pine mouth and pine nut mouth. But even more telling to me is the number of reader responses I’ve gotten, each with a similar story.
I’ve asked those readers to post their comments here. If you’ve had the problem, please tell us about it. Also, if you know of a local bricks-and-mortar store that is selling North American pine nuts, please let us know. There are a few on line sources but I am looking for more. Once I have gathered a number of options, I’ll list them in a new post. In the meantime, here’s one I’ve found that looks pretty good, though I have not yet contacted them: Penny’s Pine Nuts.
In case you have not read the column, here’s a quick summary. A bitter taste appears a day or two after eating pine nuts and so if you’re not thinking about it, you may not associate the problem with its cause. The annoying taste may last for a few days or several weeks and then simply vanishes on its own. Some people find the taste influences everything they eat but one person suffering from it said he found bold spicy foods and cold beer were unaffected. That makes intuitive sense to me. The source of the problem seems to be Chinese pine nuts; Chinese producers combine traditionally-used varieties of pine nuts with pine nuts from trees not typically used for food.
If you do not suffer from this problem or if you’ve found a domestic source for pine nuts, you’ll enjoy the recipes that accompanied yesterdays column: