Monday, May 16, 2011

the curse of pine nut mouth

Okay.  Confession time: I am a bit of a hypochondriac. (Note: this may be the largest understatement ever made.) So its not terribly unusual for me to google symptoms as they happen and diagnose myself with the bubonic plague, lupus, brain tumors etc etc etc.  I also recently made a joke that if I had a television show it would be called I Always Think I'm Pregnant.

This in mind, I successfully diagnosed myself via googling.... with PINE NUT MOUTH. Ugh.

I had some absolutely fantastic pesto, made with pine nuts, basil, arugula, garlic and parmesan, a few days this week on a tomato-zucchini gratin. It was absolutely delicious.  Until I started getting a weird taste in my mouth that I could only describe as soapy and metallic that came back anytime I ate or drank anything, especially savory foods.  At first I thought my yogurt was bad.  Then I assumed the same about some chips I was snacking on.  And then I had a burger that looked absolutely fantastic and still tasted like metal. These symptoms are apparently common with pine nuts that are imported from china, russia and vietnam.  A few studies seem to attribute it to non-edible variations of pine nuts making it into the market.  Others assume its an additive, others still believe the offending nuts to be rancid. You can read more here, thanks to Grace Tan, a scientist who took up the task of figuring out this mysterious pine nut syndrome.

My extensive googling confirmed the diagnosis but didn't tell me much about how to make it better.  It seems like waiting it out is the consensus.  But here are a few tips that made my few days of metallic soapy taste a little more bearable.

Three things improved the bad taste:
1. 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 10 oz of water, taken before meals
2. squeezing fresh lemon directly on my tongue / drinking water with several lemon wedges while finishing meals (as the taste is the worst after meals)
3. salty and spicy foods

Things to avoid:
1. sweet foods (the momentary relief leads to terrible bitter rebound - GROSS)
2. savory foods (especially cheese, which was heartbreaking)
3. starchy foods (potatoes, breads etc)

I did not come across literature on any problematic Spanish or Italian pine nuts.  So if you need to use them in the above fabulous pesto (btw, cashews and walnuts make excellent substitutes) try and make good choices.  Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Costco are all continuing to sell these delightfully rancid treats, so make sure you are reading labels carefully about where the nuts (and nut mixes that contain pine nuts) are imported from. 

Not exactly a gluten free dilemma, but relevant to happy, incident free eating. Choose those nuts wisely, friends*.

*(that's what she said)

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