It’s pesto season, so I thought I’d do my part to spread the warning about a recent pine nut problem. Apparently (according to this thread on Chowhounds), there is a problem with some pine nuts, including the crop that are in the markets around Montreal right now. It appears to be specific to the cheaper ones from China and Korea.
Apparently there’s some kind of oxidization going on, and the result is that after you eat something made with these pine nuts, you experience a bitter taste in your mouth that can last for a few days up to three weeks. It can ruin your appetite, so maybe it’s a good thing for those who are looking to shed a few pounds, but for the rest of us (ok, I’m looking to shed a few pounds, but not this way), it’s something to be aware of.
Fortunately it doesn’t make you sick, and the toxicology studies come up with nothing unusual. But it is awfully inconvenient and annoying — especially this time of year when there’s such an abundance of fresh harvest produce on the market waiting to be enjoyed.
From what I’ve read, you will not experience this problem if you buy the more expensive pine nuts from European sources.
- Pine Nuts Associated with Bitter Aftertaste (U.K. Food Standards Agency)
- Pine Mouth Puzzle (The Mail Online)
- Pine Nuts Left a Bitter Taste in my Mouth (Pinch My Salt)
- The Bitter Aftertaste of Chinese Pine Nuts (Babyccino)
Editorial postscript: this could serve as a wake-up call to those who are always on the lookout for the best price when it comes to food. The reality is that our markets are full of ridiculously cheap food (according to some sources, food in the western hemisphere is cheaper now than it has ever been). But you need to question why that food is so cheap. The answer is often that, like a lot of dollar store goods, the production has been outsourced to China and other places where labour is so cheap it’s practically free. But those places have much lower quality and safety standards, so buyer beware (or, as caveat emptor is more properly translated: the buyer should make him/herself aware).