Most people interested in food cherish the sanctity of their taste buds. A recent New York Times article, however, describes parties dedicated to a little red berry that alters people’s flavor perceptions (registration required) for about an hour. The berry, known as “miracle fruit” (Synsepalum dulcificum), coats the tongue with a protein called miraculin, which “acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids,” according to the Times. Even bitter foods like lemons or spicy condiments like Tabasco are rendered as sugary as frosting.
Miracle fruit itself has almost no flavor, so it is used more as a premeal novelty than an ingredient. At miracle fruit parties, attendees eat the fruit, then test a table full of usually difficult foods, including Brussels sprouts, vinegar, and goat cheese, exclaiming that these now taste like, “Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!” Last year, Jacob Grier blogged at EatFoo about attending one of these parties, and the Wall Street Journal wrote an article that described efforts back in the 1970s to develop uses for the fruit and market it. Such plans were “scuttled,” says the Journal, after the FDA deemed miracle fruit a “food additive” and demanded testing.
It looks like interest in the fruit is back. Mixologists such as Lance Mayhew have been experimenting with miracle fruit cocktails. Instructables tells you how to grow your own, if you have the right climate (it’s a tropical plant). And Chowhounds have some sources to suggest as well.