Miracle Fruit and Miraculin
Every few years, the media picks up the story of Miracle Fruit, an African berry that plays tricks with the human tongue: it changes how you perceive sour flavors, making even the sourest foods (like lemons and beer) seem super-sweet.
The newest fervor over Miracle Fruit comes from a May New York Times piece, though coverage of the fruit goes back a ways. (I think the first time I heard about the fruit was circa 1997, and it seems to pop up as new news every now and again.) Anyway, the Times article describes the fruit and the phenomenon of "flavor tripping parties," in which participants pay an entry fee to taste some Miracle Fruit, then indulge in all sorts of sour-turned-sweet flavors:
Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket. "You pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute," he said. "Then you're ready to go." He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf PatrÃ³n.
Miracle Fruit's sweet-making properties are thanks to an active ingredient (identified way back in 1968) that goes by the bizarrely optimistic name Miraculin. The FDA has refused to approve the substance as a sweetening agent in the US, and instead has classified it a "food additive." Many Miraculin proponents strongly disagree with this decision, speculating that the FDA is in the pocket of Big Sugar (or Big Corn Syrup, perhaps).
If you're looking for your own flavor trip, you can buy fruit from Miracle Fruit Man (aka Curtis Mozie), or from the Flavor Trip guy himself. Further information is also available via Miracle Fruit's Wikipedia page. As a Portland resident, I look forward to tracking down this fellow and getting the hookup:
Lance J. Mayhew developed a series of drink recipes with miracle fruit foams and extracts for a recent issue of the cocktail magazine Imbibe and may create others for Beaker & Flask, a restaurant opening later this year in Portland, Ore.
So have any Mental Floss readers partaken of the Miracle Fruit? If so, would you recommend it?