Have you ever heard of pine-mouth? My husband had it once, and it was terrible. Pine-mouth is a mysterious taste disturbance caused by consuming pine nuts that makes everything you eat taste bitter and gross. It lasts for an indefinite length of time, possibly days or weeks, and I’ve even heard horror stories of cases that never clear up. My husband’s pine-mouth lasted for nearly a week. There has been some speculation that old or rancid pine nuts are to blame. Or that the variety coming from China is the culprit. But nobody really knows why it happens and when it might strike. (For the record, the pine nuts that caused my husband’s pine-mouth tasted normal and had no off odor. Strangely, I had eaten from the same batch of pesto and suffered no ill effects.)
I’ve always loved the unique taste and texture of pine nuts, but ever since my husband’s experience with pine-mouth I’ve been a little less enthusiastic about cooking and eating them. I still do it on occasion but every time feels a bit like a game of Russian roulette for the palate. Even if I didn’t rely on my sense of taste to make a living, it would be cause for hesitation.
Then one day Hubby and I were wandering through the aisles of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store, which carries a huge variety of unusual grains and seeds, when we stumbled across hemp seeds.
They were relatively expensive, but you know I can never pass up an opportunity to try something new, so we decided to splurge on a package. Lo and behold, the tiny little seeds reminded me a lot of pine nuts, right down to the waxy texture!
Sometimes I still risk it, but when I don’t feel like jeopardizing my taste buds, I make pesto with raw hulled hemp seeds instead of pine nuts. It’s quite delicious and tastes very much like the real thing. By the way, hemp seeds are also good sprinkled on salads.
Before I get to the recipe, I’d like to thank The Commercial Appeal and SiouxCityJournal.com for jumping on the butter bandwagon!
Basil-Hemp Seed Pesto
2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup hulled hemp seeds
½ cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Makes about 1 ¼ cups. Use just as you would classic basil pesto with pine nuts: toss with pasta, stir into soup, spread on sandwiches, or spoon over grilled steak or fish. If not using right away, minimize browning by transferring the pesto to a jar and pouring over enough olive oil to generously coat the surface. It’ll keep for a couple of days tightly sealed in the refrigerator.