Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just call me pine mouth

We got a huge wad of kale in our sailboat CSA on Sunday morning so I decided to whip up a batch for lunch. I've been doing this thing where I'll sautee kale (or chard) in olive oil with shredded carrots, adding water as it cooks. I also throw in onion powder, garlic, salt, pepper and whatever else I feel like adding. It makes for an extremely tasty alternative to the higher fat version that I make, which entails heavy whipping cream and Parmesan cheese, which is slightly not as good for you.

Monday evening I started eating dinner and from the first bite, things tasted weird. I asked my husband if his vegetables (not kale) tasted okay and he said it was fine. I noticed everything had an odd bitter, metallic taste to it and just assumed I had eaten something that had thrown my taste buds off.

By Tuesday, I was still experiencing a problem. I didn't notice it in the morning, but by afternoon my apple tasted weird and, again, my dinner was even more bitter and metallic. I thought maybe it had to do with some new supplements I started taking and was a little concerned that it might be something more physical.

I know some nutritional deficiencies or a little too much of something can throw off your sense of taste. Since I had spent a good part of the afternoon trying to decipher a bunch of wonky lab results for my toxin body burden testing for my book (hello tungsten and molybdenum, why are you so high?), I figured anything was game.

So, I went to my trusty Google to see what I could find. I ran into a number of people claiming they had the same problem after eating pine nuts. Pine nuts! I had loaded up my kale on Sunday with pine nuts to make it a more substantial meal. According to 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... Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as "pine mouth". This is a relatively newly noticed phenomenon.

The Nestle Research Centre has hypothesized that a particular species of Chinese pine nuts is the cause of the problem. The suspect species of pine nuts are smaller, duller, and more rounded than typical pine nuts. This agrees with the findings of ødevarestyrelsen (Danish food ministry), which ties the symptoms to "illegitimate" nuts from Pinus armandii (Chinese white pine) and Pinus massoniana (Chinese red pine), which have a different fatty acid than "genuine" pine nuts, being mixed with "genuine" pine nuts in China to meet export demands.

Metallic taste disturbance, known as metallogeusia, is reported 1–3 days after ingestion, being worse on day 2 and lasting for up to 2 weeks. Cases are self-limited and resolve without treatment.

This does bring up the issue of food safety. This isn't the first time we've seen Chinese products "padded" with filler foods. When we buy nuts, we always buy in bulk and choose organic, but we don't have that option at the store we frequent for pine nuts. I suspect that we got a batch of pseudo-pine nuts because I've never had this happen before.

This apparently has become an emerging problem over the last few years with it peaking this last summer. In the UK, the Food Standards Agency is looking into the issue. As to be expected, in spite of complaints, the FDA is sitting on its hands.

The pine nuts I ate are relatively fresh, so I know that rancidity (which is an issue with these high fat tasty little nuts) isn't the problem. In any case, I thought I'd share my experience with you in case you buy pine nuts for the pesto I'm sure you make from all that basil you grow in the summer. I tell you, though, I'm going to be leary about the pine nuts I buy in the future. Several weeks of pine mouth is really unpleasant. Although it could be the next popular diet aid since it makes everything taste nasty.

Have you ever experienced pine mouth? Or even heard of it?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

My husband had that happen a couple of weeks ago and we never attributed it to pine nuts but we did have them the day before his symptoms of metallic mouth....bet you just solved our mystery.

Presto said...

Weird. The only time I've had that metal taste in my mouth was when I was on massive doses of antibiotics after a rather severe infection.

Amy said...

Very interesting. I wonder if Harold McGee knows about this?

Anna said...

I make tons of pesto to freeze since my son is allergic to tomatoes. My husband had a metallic taste in his mouth for a while and found information linked to pine nuts. None of the rest of us noticed anything, and his problem was solved by upping his salt intake. He is building our house and was working long days in the heat and needed to replenish his salt from sweating too much. We've had pesto from the same batch without a problem. So I blame salt deficiency.

Taking iron supplements also give that metallic flavor to foods. And some pine nuts, it's nice to know what to watch for. Thanks for the info!

The Larsons said...

Ewww! Never heard anything like that. Definitely will stick with pumpkin seeds in my kale.

Hazel said...

I'd never heard of it until I read a comment on another blog the other day. I hope it doesn't last too long for you.
I'll be checking country of origin on pinenuts in future, thanks for the information.

Kate said...

Very odd. I'd never heard of this, so thanks for posting about it. Only reinforces my desire to avoid all Chinese products, especially food.

susanna eve said...

we use walnuts in pesto instead of pine nuts. works just fine.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

Yet another reason not to buy anything even products labeled as organic that come out of CHINA. If I can't tell the country of origin or its CHINA I won't buy it.

Yllsa said...

I love pine nuts but I don't use them in cooking too much :O

I just wanted to let you know I featured your blogs (Crunchy Chicken and Green Goddess Dressing) over at my blog! Here's a link:

http://yllsa.blogspot.com/2010/11/help-yourself-wednesday-earth-friendly.html

Have a nice day :)

simplifysimplify said...

Never heard of it, but I can't say that I think this is as insidious or dangerous as the "padding" of products in China that you are referring to which have seriously impaired health and killed people (babies). This is still a food, just a lower grade one, and now I would actually say it is a private industry matter, rather than a government one. It's government only if it endangers health or triggers reactions. So unless this flavor changing thingy gets classified as a reaction that affects health (and I think it's good that it's being looked into as a possibility), I'd leave it to the industry to hear from people who don't like it to re-grade their product, like different grades of olive oil or almonds. This is just not like putting plastic fillers into baby formula, pet food, or supplements.

Adrienne said...

I'm not a huge pine nut fan, so I use walnuts in pesto (and sometimes other things that call for pine nuts). Yummy! And no metallic aftertaste!

andrea said...

I had that last year! Pine nuts from Trader Joe's, sourced from China. It lasted about a week and made everything taste so bad that I was hardly eating or drinking anything at all! Just awful. Buying the good quality Italian ones is just too expensive for the amount of pesto we make, so I've switched to walnuts for that. Still very yummy. Hope yours clears up quickly.

Greenpa said...

Nope, never heard of it before, and huge thanks for the latin names, they do help!

Robj98168 said...

Never heard of it. Must be unique to Ballard.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

One of my friends got pine mouth after making a batch of pesto with pine nuts from China, but so far I've not had a problem. Blech.

Old Wise One said...

Didn't pine nuts lead to the death of Euell Gibbons?

Mike
Baton Rouge

EngineerChic said...

Yet another reason I'm leery of food produced in China. I won't buy it when I'm in the US (but when I'm there on business, I sorta have to).

Although this doesn't rate the same as putting melamine in milk powder (which is STILL a problem over there, BTW) it is definitely deceptive. Much like labeling Langostinos as Lobster - they are similar but definitely not the same.

Maria said...

I never heard of this before, but wow - Great information to know. I also make my pesto with walnuts, so that won't be an issue for me, but I do make pinole nut cookies (Italian) and I'll be careful to read the labels.....Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I couldn't figure out what was going on. I was wondering if I was getting sick or had allergies. I read your post and interestingly enough, I purchased raw pine nuts on Monday and had them on a salad. I've emailed the store to see which country they are from.
Thanks for the post!

LinkWithin