Pine Nut Mouth

I blamed the banana, and I blamed it in a number of four-letter ways that would’ve made my mom wash my mouth out with brands of soap only familiar to Russian intelligence agencies and the Mossad. I cursed every banana republic I could think of and made up a few (Sonofabitchiti being the most the most colorful) just for good measure. I accused the banana of having sexual intercourse with its mother. I was unhappy with the banana.

Then I blamed the whole organic industry. We eat a lot of the organic stuff and bananas are no exception. I try to eat healthy, you see, and so when it came time for a mid-afternoon snack, the banana seemed to be the best bet.

Since I ate the last bite of that damned piece of fruit, nothing has tasted right. In fact, no matter what I put in my mouth, it all tastes like I took a piece of orange rind and chewed it up something fierce. My taste buds refuse to register sweet, salt, sour, or the fabled umami. I am, in a word, nothing but bitter.

That night, I ate roasted chicken, sweet corn, and couscous. Bitter, bitter, bitter.

Before bed, I had some sunflower seeds and a diet 7-Up. Bitter, bitter-up.

Breaksfast: Kashi and a mimosa. Healthy, boozy bitter.

I could go on through the rest of that day, but it’s the same thing time and again.

So, I thought I was dying, of course. I figured myself for a brain tumor or that mouth cancer that adults have been warning me about since grade school. I figured my tongue was one big malignant mass of death. I told no one for a while, figuring it would be best to suffer in silence and then fake my death in some honorable way that would allow my sons to say, “Daddy died in the failed rescue of six nuns and six school children” instead of “Dad had a dirty mouth and died without a tongue.”

Finally, I told my wife. She deserved to know. She’s been a good woman and a good wife. The truth, no matter how bitter, was something she should hear.

“Everything taste bitter,” I said over dinner.

“It tastes fine to me,” she said.

No, I explained. Everything. Everything tasted like the rind of a citrus fruit. I was going to die of some rare illness carried by organic bananas. She thought I had started dipping into the sherry again.

It’s hard to explain how frustrating this is. When infected with the dreaded bitter mouth, you tend to forget for an hour or two that you have a problem. Then you pop an almond or goldfish cracker in your mouth and you want to spit out your tongue. It takes you by surprise, much like I expect it is when your cellmate crawls into your bunk beside you at night. It’s very unpleasant and always surprising, but you grow painfully used to it after a while.

The sad thing is, my sense of taste is something I take very seriously. Some of the greater pleasures I get in life are the ones that land on my tongue. I tried to imagine living the rest of my life without being disgusted by everything I ate. Apart from being a great weight loss program, it was going to be one miserable way to go through life.

I thought about crying, but decided I would consult Google before I went off in search of a burning Catholic school house. Within two minutes, I happened across this article.

Holy banana republic. It wasn’t the banana’s fault.

Just a few days back, I made a nice little dinner. It was rare for me to put pine nuts in anything. This night, I toasted some my wife brought home and mixed them with the couscous. Three days later: Bitter.

Apparently certain people (read: me) are affected by certain kinds of pine nuts (read: those sitting in my kitchen). The effect is this: 2-3 days after consumption, sufferers find everything they eat bitter.

It lasts up to ten days.

Ten days.

Ten days.

That’s how it’s echoed in my head every time I have taken a bite of anything.

The good news is, I’m not dying. I will probably lose some weight. The bad news is…ten days.

Pine nut mouth.

Who knew?

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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20 Responses

  1. Dr. Chako says:

    When I heard this post was going to be about a bizarre medical condition, I was expecting blue-rubber-bleb nevus syndrome, xanthogranulomatous pyelonephritis, or perhaps oriental cholangiohepatitis.

    Compared to those (all real BTW), “Pine-nut mouth” seems pretty bland.

    No pun intended, of course.


    PS. Don’t you love Google? I actually use it almost every day to look up medical conditions I see in the hospital. I constantly learn new stuff, even about diseases and diagnoses I thought I knew cold.

  2. jennifer says:

    I haven’t laughed this hard at a blog in a looong time. Sorry you’re so bitter! 🙂

  3. Wes says:

    Oh no. You’re going to miss Mackinaw peach season.

  4. jw says:

    oh god. 10 days? i have been sitting here googling “bad taste in mouth” to figure out what is going on with me (i have a terrible bitter taste at the back of my mouth when i eat, have been choking down my food today, and spending a lot of time gargling with listerine). when i saw “bad taste in mouth pine nuts” pop up i thought huh, interesting. i’ll check that out. not that i’ve eaten any pine nuts lately… oh wait… what about that beet and pine nut salad i ate at a restaurant on thursday. damn. at least i’m not dying.

  5. Elizabeth and I were just commenting on how glad we are that we don’t suffer from Pine Nut Mouth. We eat the fuck out of some pine nuts. Like, if pine nuts were so expensive that you could only afford them after selling a body part I’d be a one legged, four fingered, no knee caps, smiling, pine nut eating muthafucka!

    Also, if you ever have the antibiotic Biaxin XL prescribed for any variety of infection you can expect an annoying metallic taste that won’t go away until you stop your regimen. It sounds almost exactly like what you’re talking about.

    Also, thanks for the reminder. We’re totally out of pine nuts right now.

  6. emme says:

    I had the same thing happen to me four days ago and I haven’t had any pine nuts. I chalked it up to whatever bloomin’ pollen was dripping down my throat. It lasted a few days but it’s gone now. I was beginning to panic, as my palate is very precious to me.

  7. Erica Chiarkas says:

    omg I have been freaking out at why everything…and I mean EVERYTHING tastes like bitter nastiness (toothpaste? wtf??) …have been Googling my a** off trying to figure it out…and then voila! Pages and pages of pine mouth stuff. And I just used pine nuts like two days ago!! And it never happened before…

    And then your article cracked me up because you felt (tasted!) my pain.

    And now your blog post is on my Facebook page. 🙂

    Thank you, Brad Willis!

  8. Tim Wildash says:

    7 days in and its still not improved, its really annoying. My housemate and I ate loads too! At least i discovered what it was, but thats no consolation!

  9. Cassandra says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this article!!! I found myself to be in your same situation … we had a presentation in Biology Class, ours was on Conifers. One of my group members thought it would be brilliant to bring in some Pine Nuts to share with the class… LOL I thought I was developing acid reflux or something … started research symptoms and found this … ha ha ha

    Now, I can’t wait to share the joy of Pine Nuts with others 🙂

  10. Michelle says:

    2 or 3 days ago I transferred the pine nuts from Whole Foods to a glass jar. Yup. Looked exactly and precisely like your picture. I tried one. Delicious! Truly, truly good. I recall thinking — this is worth the extra money over the Trader Joe’s ones that I had been buying, which are very small and just not that flavorful. I also didn’t content myself with just trying one. No, they were so damned good I made a little snack of them. So, I’m guessing that WF changed suppliers and is using a new variety of pine nut.

    This morning, my first sip of coffee tasted fine on the tip of my tongue and then hit the back of my tongue and I was like “whoa!!!!” Pancakes next. Gross!!!! What is that bitter, metallic taste on the back of my tongue and into my throat. It is HORRIBLE!

    So of course I immediately Google, thinking perhaps I have some bizarre illness since I also have the beginnings of a nasty head cold.

    So this is going to last about 2 weeks, huh? Well, maybe I’ll finally drop that 10 pounds before summer. 🙂

  11. Tara says:

    I too have pine mouth for the first time in my life. I have eaten pine nuts many times before (usually with pesto) and have never had a problem. A friend gave me a fresh batch of pesto he made which I ate three days in a row …. now I have pine mouth. LIke everyone else, I decided I was probably dying of some sort of terrible disease … I’m glad i’m not, but I’ll probably NEVER eat another pine nut again in my life. I’m on day 3 with this horrible taste and so far it’s as bad as when it started…. does anybody have an ETA as to when this will (finally!) go away???

  12. Marc says:

    Had pesto on Saturday (I’ve had pine nuts many times before without problems). A few days later noticed a funny taste in my mouth …extra mouthwash, brushing etc… Nothing helped. Put myself on antibiotics (? sinusitis)..nothing. Put myself on anti-gerd meds for possible esophagitis…no good. Last night went to a winetasting with upper end chardonny. When the wine hit the back of my mouth almost threw up and couldn’t understand the rave reviews everybody was giving the wine. When it happened with the next two wines I figured out it wasn’t the wine. The only thing that got me through the night was a cheese with spicy peppers which deadend the bitter taste in the back of my mouth and actually allowed me to savor the wines. Unfortunately I ate all the cheese and the bitter taste is back. Can’t even drink coffee. Don”t think I’ll last ten days.

  13. Mark says:

    Me and some friends ate pine nuts a week ago and we have had this awfull bitter taste and stomach ache for 5 days, some worse than others. It is no joke! and it seems to be getting worse. something should be done if so many are getting ill from eating certain pine nuts, its a food safety issue surely. though if it wasnt for google I would not have made the connection. never eating pine nuts again. Too risky.

  14. Steph says:

    Apparently you should gargle bicarb of soda,drink aloe vera juice and take charcoal tablets. I cant believe i have got this! Its the strangest thing that has ever happened to me – everything i eat and drink tastes like soap apart from water! I hope it goes soon! Apparently its Chinese Pine nuts that cause it.

  15. eric says:

    Thanks for the article. I like many others, feared I was probably dying when this continued for a couple of days! After Googling a bit, I finally came across the pine nuts explanation.

    To help, putting a teaspoon of baking soda in a half glass of water and gargling with it a few times, and then making sure to rinse it out with water (or scrub with a toothbrush) right before eating seems to alleviate the problem temporarily.

    Also, the ONLY thing that doesn’t seem to taste bitter is gum. I have been chewing Dentyne Ice and gone through a pack a day to at least have a decent taste n my mouth!

    Hope that helps!

  16. Megan says:

    Too funny!
    I had just spread a chemical fertilizer (milorganite), so I was especially flipped out when I read it contains lead. In fact, the Obama’s first garden in the White House became toxic because of it. Oh no – I just didn’t expect to go this way…
    And then I read about pine nuts. Well, I did actually eat quite a few of those two days ago. And, everyone else in my family has bitter taste, and they did not spread milorganite. Phew. Honestly, in comparison to lead poisoning, I’m pretty happy to have pine mouth.

  17. mike says:

    Naturelife pine nuts “organic”, from Loblaw’s, pine mouth now for 3 days, am trying the baking soda trick.
    I’m staying clear of food imported from China FOREVER.

  18. Steph says:

    Like everyone here I’ve been worried sick for 2 days, convinced I had tongue cancer or was developing epilepsy……….and to make it worse my broadband was off so had no way of finding out until I visited my cousin and asked her to Google ‘hairspray taste in mouth’, finally I knew what was wrong with me and why everything tasted so foul – I’d eaten Tesco’s Chinese pine nuts on Friday in a salad (3 days ago). The strange thing is that I’ve been eating pine nuts regularly, plain and in pesto, for years with no ill-effects whatsoever; why has this suddenly manifested? Will it happen if I try pine nuts again? Will I be brave enough to try them again? I’ve never before been aware of any food allergy, could this be the start of adverse reactions to other foods?

  19. jayne says:

    just been to my doctors tonight thinking i had some mouth disease. Found out the small amount of pinenuts i ate have givin me this dissgusting taste. Morning, noon and night its there. Never again will i touch a pinenut. yuck!

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