Photo: annalibera, Flickr
Raise your hand if it's happened to you: A couple days ago, you loaded your salad down with pine nuts, adding a nice crunch to your greens. Now, two days later, everything you eat tastes bitter, metallic, and just plain foul. And no matter how you try to cleanse your palate, things continue to taste bad for the next week. Even more confounding: family members who ate that same offending salad have no idea what you're talking about.
Pine nut mouth (yes, that's what it's being called -- who comes up with these names, anyway?) is a poorly documented phenomenon, but it's starting to gain more attention in foodie circles, and scientists are beginning to take note, too. There's not enough scientific data yet to draw any conclusions, but there are a few theories as to what causes this vexing condition. Gregory Moller, a professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at the University of Idaho, pointed out to the Bay Area News Group that what we call pine nuts are actually not just a single species; 29 different pine trees produce edible nuts. "It could be," he explained, "that some of these species are mildly toxic to some people."