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Thank goodness for Google/”Why does everything taste bitter?”

This morning my chocolate milk tasted bitter. The milk is a little past its expiration date, but it smelled like nothing, so I didn’t know what to think. This afternoon I was eating white cheddar popcorn from a bag we bought while camping and it tasted bitter, almost burned. I ate some popcorn Saturday with no weird taste. What is going on?

Google, as always, helped me find the answer. Pine nuts. Apparently, some people experience a persistent bitter taste that starts a day or more after eating some pine nuts and lasts for several days or more. Oh boy. You see, I had a pizza in La Crosse on Friday night with spinach, goat cheese, roasted garlic, and LOADS of pine nuts. I eat a fair amount of pesto and I even made a pasta salad with pine nuts in it last week, and I had absolutely no problem. This time – yuck.

Some people speculate that Chinese pine nuts cause the bitter taste. I have no way of knowing where the pine nuts on my pizza came from. I suspect China is a major supplier, so the fact that the problem nuts come from China does not mean all nuts from China cause problems.

This is going to make me think twice about pine nuts from now on, and I’ll certainly never make a dish for a party with pine nuts in it again. I don’t want to inflict this on anyone else.

According to Wikipedia’s article on pine nuts:

“The eating of pine nuts can cause serious taste disturbances, developing 1-3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. A bitter, metallic taste is described. In general, a minority of pine nuts on the market present this problem. Though very unpleasant, there does not seem to be a real health concern.

This phenomenon was first described in a scientific paper in 2001.[6] Since the article, experiences of the phenomenon have been reported by hundreds of people worldwide (US, Canada, South Africa, Finland, Iceland, Germany, and many more).[7][8]“

Oh yes, and there’s a cute name for this problem: Pine Mouth (or pine-mouth). So, Erin, what did you bring home from your camping vacation? Pine mouth and a bazillion mosquito bites. Good times. Happy Googling.

44 Responses to “Thank goodness for Google/”Why does everything taste bitter?””

  1. Shannon says:

    Pine Mouth, it’s that simple.

    I LOVE pesto, but don’t really like pine nuts. Weird. I’m sure the pizza place uses the Chinese ones though.

  2. erin says:

    People are reporting this problem after eating pesto made with pine nuts too :( I love pine nuts, but I’m going to be more careful about ordering them in restaurants from now on.

  3. erin says:

    Day 4 post pine nuts (Day 2 of bitterness): I thought I might be doing better, but then I had some guacamole at lunch and the bitterness hit me like never before. I wonder if this sensation is a magnification of the natural bitterness in food. Why does the bitterness happen after some foods more than others?

    I have the feeling that this is going to ruin my dinner at Ruth’s Chris.

    Safe foods: water
    Particularly bad foods: popcorn, guacamole, chocolate milk

  4. erin says:

    Day 7 post pine nuts: bitterness gone, although I ate a few pine nuts on a salad at a restaurant two days ago, so we’ll see if I get unlucky again…

  5. edward shipsey says:

    thank goodness for google – my sentiments exactly, i ate pine nuts the other day and dont usually so that could very well explain that bitter taste, i thought i mgiht have all sorts of diseases for a little bit

  6. erin says:

    Hi Edward. If it really was the pine nuts it will probably go away in a week or so. That’s what happened with me. To me, fatty things tasted particularly bad. Weird, huh?

  7. Tom says:

    Mystery solved. I ate quite a few pine nuts a little more than a week ago and it is still haunting me, can’t wait for it to pass!

  8. Jen says:

    Thank goodness for google indeed! I was certain that I’d been infected by some nutty (pun totally intended) disorder. Turns out I had! Thanks for the info and I will most certainly be avoiding pine nuts from here forward….

  9. erin says:

    Awww… it’s like the holiday pine nut plague around here.

    The good news: since my problem this summer I have not had pine mouth again and I’ve been eating pesto as always. I think I will probably steer clear of anything with handfuls of pine nuts on it, but otherwise, eating a few here and there (or as pesto) has not given me any bad experiences.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    How strange! I just also found this on Google… Yesterday I experienced the same sensation that everything suddenly tasted bitter. The other causes on the internet just didn’t feel likely; dental or gastric problems or types of metal poisoning. This was very sudden and it had never happened before, and I was on a snowboard trip in the middle of nowhere. Sure enough, I had a pasta salad with pesto and a big giant spoonful of pine nuts two days ago at a work sponsored luncheon. Thanks so much for posting the experience so I don’t have to make a trip to the dentist or doctor! I’ve had pine nuts plenty of times before, but work sponsored lunches are ALWAYS suspect. I also note that there is a pesto+pine nuts combination above…

  11. erin says:

    I suppose this is a good place to note that I am not a doctor, and any bitter taste that does not resolve on its own is probably a good reason to visit your doctor.

  12. Paul says:

    Another victim saved! Thank you all. I finally broke down and googled it when I couldnt take the “bitters” any more. Sure enough, my wife brought home a bag of bulk pine nuts from sprouts the other day and I went to town on them…Glad to know I’m not dying.

  13. Einat says:

    Thank goodness! I love pine nuts and cannot find them that easily lately. In my last trip to ChinaTown, I found some at a store and gladly bought them. Yesterday had a salad with a lot of them and today – bitter taste. Ofcourse I thought I am going to die of metal poisoning until I found this post. Thank you. Chinese pine nuts it is.

  14. [...] Why does everything taste Bitter?[...]

  15. Jeff says:

    The real question is:
    What is the cure?!!
    This would be funny if it wasn’t happening to me. Lettuce is awful! I must have eaten at least half a pound. How long is THAT going to last. Hoe Lee crap!! My bourbon tastes like scotch. I hate scotch. Everything tastes like scotch. Thanks for the diagnosis. A cure would be nice. I have access to a 16 Tera-flop supercomputer if it would help. If cancer tasted like this they would have cured it centuries ago.

  16. anon says:

    who’d have thought. Started getting this bitterness in my mouth yesterday morning, through nothing of it, as i had been drinking heavily for 2 days but this morning i was getting a bit worried. so i googled it and found this.
    I had polished off a pot of chilli mixed nuts which did contain pine nuts. amazing what you find on google

  17. rmg12 says:

    I ate some pine nuts on saturday it’s now tuesday and the bitterness is worse today it’s day 2 of bitterness which on wikipedia says is the worst day :/ oh dear. they do taste nice but i don’t think im gonna eat any in the near future :s

  18. Leoni says:

    Thank goodness for this answer – i’ve been getting more and more concerned! I ate pine nuts on Sunday in a little gourmet salad and since tuesday = favourite food at my favourite restaurant – awful, madly pricy red wine – eugh, and finally this morning Coffee, rusk, muffin – YUK YUK YUK! So glad Im not poisoned, dying, permanently unable to enjoy food!

  19. jerry says:

    All I can say is Thank You! I was starting to sweat it a bit. Everything I love to eat or drink was tasting like boiled dandelion greens. Still unable to enjoy my favourite beer. Two nights ago I gobbled a handful of pine nuts that my wife purchased at the local, organic co-op.
    Still suffering – day three.

  20. G-ma Alice says:

    Thank you. I was puzzled. Ate pasta with pesto last night and the night before. Usually I make pesto without pine nuts, but this time my daughter in law left me some pine nuts she had bought on vacation in Healdsburg, Sonoma County California. The bitter taste I developed puzzled me. Wondered if it could be a symptom of something serious. I’ve recently taken antibiotics and wondered if that could be it. Really think the pine nuts are at fault and hope to be over this soon. Will not use these pinenuts again. Others I’ve used have been fine. Thank you again for the heads up.

  21. Amazing! I had exactly the same experience: sudden onset of a bitter, metallic taste at the back of my mouth whenever I eat or drink anything (even very sweet desserts and juices). Turns out I had made some pesto with old pine nuts obtained from a local organic food store, and we had the pesto on pasta two days ago. I’m not sure if the pine nuts were Chinese or merely past their “sell by” date, but the correlation is 100%. Now, if someone would just suggest a possible antidote (I’m not eating much, as everything tastes like phenylthiocarbamide).

  22. John Lodin says:

    Wow. I am curious to know if this is selective. My dad claims that the reason he cannot have broccoli is because he is a “supertaster” and broccoli is impossible to stomach. So are there any “normaltasters” who are able to eat pine nuts without symptom?

  23. Janet Sullivan says:

    oh shucks. My favourite dish contains pine nuts, toasted, I love them!!! Just bought a large bag full and of course had to nibble a few while watching TV – now everything tastes bitter, even coffee. Will have to go in search of non Chinese pine nuts in future.

  24. Faith says:

    Thanks everyone, this is creeping me out, making me wonder if the Chinese are using some bad chemicals on their pine nuts………

  25. Thanks so much for this thread…I thought this was some weird side effect of the flu that I have a mild case of. I made a huge batch of pesto three days ago and used it liberally on pizza. My thirteen year old daughter who also has the flu came downstairs saying that the toothpaste had gone off which i thought was rather strange.(this was her only taste abberation). Next morning my coffee tasted weird like the milk was sour and from then on everything has left a bitter taste in my mouth..even a doughnut!! Its disgusting. I have noticed that the pine nuts have been getting smaller lately and this was a new bag I opened..think I’ll be steering clear for a while..hope its just reaction to a particular species and not to some kind of chemical they’re using!

  26. Tyson says:

    Wow, that’s the first time I ever looked up one of my strange maladies on the internet and it took me straight to the solution. Cool. And very weird.

  27. millymolly says:

    Thank you all so much! Am so glad to discover I’m not dying of anything. Developed the horrible taste on Sunday evening. Now Friday and although much improved was still anxious until I googled. Yes…….I found an open packet of the little yummies in my pantry last Friday and decided I should ‘tidy’ them up. I think this has cured me of nibbling! Yuk!
    BTW – worst for me was bread, pasta and coffee. Bananas and eggs were about the only things I could tollerate! Thanks again.

  28. Daniel says:

    I was starting to wonder why everything I ate and drank tasted funny. I was starting to think there was something wrong with me, I’m glad to have discovered the cause. Thanks!

  29. Nick says:

    Anyone who voluntarily eats Chinese grown food is crazy.

    Our industrial waste gets shipped over there and is dumped on fields and contaminates soil and waterways. The melamine in baby forumula, lead and cadmium in other food stuffs and general filth there as well as lack of regulatory agencies creates this. Whole Foods is even selling Chinese grown “organic” food under their house brands.

    “Quality Assurance International” is in charge of certifying that the food from there is organic. They don’t even send inspectors into the fields, rather they hire some local agent. Yeah, like that’s really incorruptible.

  30. Anjie says:

    This explains the inexplicable reason for not really caring for pine nuts even though they don’t taste bad to me. Thanks for sharing this info! Now I understand why everything has tasted bitter for the last day and a half.

  31. Jamie says:

    It’s been quite entertaining & comforting reading everyone’s bitter taste experience.
    I thought it was a side effect of detoxing or some kind of food poisoning, but sure
    enough, I just had delicious candied pine nuts in a caesar salad at a very expensive
    restaurant 3 days ago. However, I will definitely avoid them in the future. You just
    never know what damage Chinese chemicals could have on you!!

  32. Kit says:

    Thanks so much for this information… I too thought something awful must be wrong with me, everything is bitter for the last couple of days… every single thing in eat or drink… so I thought the worst… then found this on google… I ate pinenuts on Saturday, New Years Day, three days ago… made treats from pine nuts for a party we attended… such a relief to discover the connection… although it is VERY unpleasant I am now reassured it is not serious!


  33. Kit says:

    BTW my pine nuts were from Whole Foods, the bin…. don’t know if they are Chinese grown… will go check and see… steer clear, I’ve never had this happen with pine nuts before..

  34. Maxine says:

    I tried to ignore that fact that I have been having a bitter taste in my mouth for the last few days, but when it became obvious, that this is in fact happening everytime I eat something, I became suspicious. So I googled it and found this. Thank you so much. It makes sense to me as I baked a cake with pine nuts on Sunday and ate almost half of it! I have pine-mouth! Phew…..

  35. Leighton says:

    and this is an international issue, i bought a kg of pine nuts from my local supermarket bulk bin last friday, in new zealand, developed wierd bitter taste 2 days later, pleased (somewhat) to discover this explanation, phoned supermarket and sure enough the bulk pine nuts are a product of chine whereas the pre-packaged that i usually buy are not. love to know the chemical reaction involved and if some people are immune….

  36. Jim says:

    What a relief! I thought there was something seriously wrong with me when everything started tasting foul and bitter. It is taking all the joy out of eating.

    About three days ago my wife made a salad with lots of pine nuts, most of which I ended up eating to clean up the bowl. I hope it is gone soon.

  37. Amy says:

    Thank the sweet baby Jesus! Like the rest of you “pine-mouth” victims, I had this sudden onset of bitterness this morning after having a delicious pine nut laden salad 2 nights ago. I have what I call “yuck mouth” that I typically associate with morning cotton mouth. BLECH! I hope it goes away soon, as it’s stripping me of joyful eating!

  38. Andrew says:

    Thank you thank you!
    Mine is pretty mild, and I thought it had something to do with this minor respiratory infection. Now I have to decide whether to eat the rest of that salad from yesterday and face the consequences. It was so delicious…

  39. Bobbi says:

    Glad I found the culprit! Pine nuts! Sticking to sunflower seeds on my salad from now on! Lol can’t wait for this to go away

  40. Diane says:

    I have had a horrible taste in my mouth for several days – I do eat a lot of Almonds, etc. but not pine nuts. I have been on an antibiotic and I have heard that may also be a cause of the awful taste in my mouth.

  41. definitely asian pine nuts says:

    Yes! I had pine nuts many times back at home (spain) straight from the tree and I’ve never experienced this before but about 3 days ago I bought some Korean pine nuts and added them to my salad. No everything tastes bitter!!! It’s horrible. Water is the only thing that feels ok … Thanks for the posts. I would have never guessed it otherwise!

  42. Linda says:

    WOW. I eat pine nuts frequently, but I’ve had this bitter taste thing since the last batch of Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts I made last week. And it was a new batch of pine nuts, and they weren’t cheap! It actually felt like something I ate, but when googling it I came up with the conclusion that I had some sort of yeast, and inspection of my tongue seemed to confirm this. So a visit to a clinic and a $30 bottle of RX mouthwash later, I now learn it is likely to be the pine nuts! I have to say it TOTALLY ruined New Years Eve last night. The wine and champagne tasted horrible. Only strong flavors came through unscathed: parmesan cheese slices on crackers, spicy bean dip.

  43. Suzanne says:

    I made polenta lasagna with pesto and pine nuts on Wednesday…still bitter on Saturday. I am relieved to have found this site!

  44. Alison says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    Yup, buy my pine nuts in bulk, been nibbling on them, and suddenly, EVERYTHING taste bitter. PineMouth, yup that’s me. Glad to know it isn’t anything serious, other than having to now toss all my pine nuts to the chickens, at least they’ll enjoy them :)
    And I was so excited to find a pinenut cake and cookie recipe, as I do love them. Will be finding a different source from now on.
    Thanks again, don’t you love google?

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