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Are Your Pine Nuts Poisonous?


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I assumed that I was immune to rare food poison or bacteria. If there’s a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that I could eat some kind of contaminant, I assumed I would either be fine or not care out of a preference to enjoy my food than live in fear, a la Anthony Bourdain (who doesn’t let the risk of being bed-ridden from posison shellfish stop him from eating mussels straight out of the water)! However, four-time James Beard award winning chefs are not even immune to poisonous foods. Rozanne Gold recently posted a blog for the Huffington Post about how she unknowingly ate poisonous pine nuts and the discomfort that followed.

Two days after eating an apple and pine nut tart, everything that Gold put in her mouth had a metallic taste to it: wine, roast turkey, and lemon juice all burned the inside of her mouth with a coppery taste. The culprit of this awful sensation was poisonous nuts in her tart, pinus armandii, a nut from China that is nearly identical to the pine nut except that it is much shorter. The Food and Agriculture Organization classifies these pills as unfit for human consumption; but because these nuts do not cause any permanent harm, shipments of pine nuts from China that might have pinus armandii mixed in are still available on supermarket shelves. The FDA says that what Gold experienced is not an allergy, but a reaction called “dysgeusia” or “metallogeusia” and it does not affect everyone who eats the poisonous white nut.

There is no cure for the symptoms of eating pinus armandii because the bitter taste that remained in Gold’s mouth for days is caused by a reaction in the brain, according to a food scientist blogger. The folk remedies of drinking aloe vera juice or chewing charcoal tablets did not even temporarily alleviate the taste in Gold’s mouth that began 2 days after she had eaten the nuts. While the reaction can last for weeks, it can also be as short as a few days, which was the case for Gold. “Four days have passed and I’m almost back to normal. Gratitude never tasted so good.”

My advice to you is to simply avoid pine nuts from China. Though they might be slightly cheaper than their Italian or American alternative, you can save yourself the misfortune of having weeks of copper-mouth.



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About Jessica Levenson


Jessica is currently a sophomore at Barnard College majoring in religion, and actively involved in Jewish life on campus. She is from West Orange, NJ and attended Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School. Jess aspires to one day be a chef in Israel.




3 Responses to Are Your Pine Nuts Poisonous?

  1. avatar says: sdg729

    I’ve sworn them off!
    It was a horror.
    And since there is a lag of two days, I had NO IDEA what caused it (Thank goodness for Google!)
    Here’s my story:

  2. Jessica – because of you I am including a note (ok a WARNING!) about pine nuts in my new book.

  3. Wow – that Jessica.
    I learn something new everytime she blogs.
    Guess you’re never too old to learn from you kids.

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