Random AsidesScience

It’s a Miracle (Fruit)!

Earlier, I Tweeted that I was at a Miracle Fruit-tasting party for Thrillist.com. A few people asked for details, so here you go.

Wendy and I arrived early in order to chat everyone up and do some filming for the Intertubez (that footage will be arriving soon . . . I forgot my camera so nothing’s on Flickr, sorry). We met a lot of the Thrillist team, all of whom were very talkative and friendly and accommodating when our cameramen showed up. John was particularly cool about being on camera with us as we experimented, and Franz, who is apparently responsible for starting the recent Miracle Fruit craze, was equally rad about appearing on camera.

In case you haven’t heard, Miracle Fruit is an African berry called Synsepalum dulcificum . . . those of you who are decent at Latin roots might guess that that means something like “screws up your taste buds and makes stuff sweet.” You’d be right.

We popped the fruit in our mouths and scraped the pulp off, and let the juice coat our tongues. The fruit itself was pleasant but nothing crazy, and around the pit it had a bitter taste. We spit out the pits and waited a minute to allow the juices to take effect.

The fruit contains a substance called miraculin, which seems to alter the sweet receptors on your tongue so that they fire when you eat something sour. So, after waiting a bit, we promptly bit into large slices of lemon. They were delicious! They tasted like lemon candy, with the faint reminder of lemon lurking behind a curtain of sugary goodness.

Next we tried our drinks. I had a certain bottle of beer that I normally don’t like because it’s too hoppy. Again, delicious, kind of like sweetened hard lemonade. The drinks were free, so after I downed that I asked the bartender to give me the sourest, lemoniest vodka cocktail she had. Whatever she gave me tasted like liquid candy and I could have downed it in 30 seconds if I hadn’t been aware that it’s a Tuesday night and I have to work tomorrow.

For me, the effect lasted about 40 minutes for one berry, though I had a couple to keep the fun going. Wendy, sadly, was less enthused about the berry and found that the lemons still tasted pretty sour to her. She mentioned off-handedly that she’s a supertaster, which might have something to do with it. I wondered if it could be that the fruit can’t overcome a supertaster’s abundance of taste buds (and after looking it up, I see that technically supertasters may have an abundance of fungiform papillae, the little nubs on your tongue that hold some of the taste buds). It’s an interesting thought, anyway.

Some people may be wondering if the Miracle Fruit is really worth it, since it tends to sell for $2 to $3 per tiny berry. To that I would say that yeah, it’s worth it. Will it change your life? Um, no. It’s not like doing a tab of acid or anything (uh, as far as I know), but at the current price it’s a bit of fun, at least for one or two berries.

However, when heeding my advice please bear in mind that I think just about any new experience is worth just about any price that doesn’t break the bank. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to lick this wall some more before retiring to bed to dream of impossibly sweet lemon trees.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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22 Comments

  1. From what I understand, fresh lemons, properly ripened, right off the tree are in fact very sweet. This I learned from my mom, who spent 6 months in Israel on a kibbutz where they grew lemon trees. Of course she was there in the 70’s so the information could be a little shaky, but it’s what I’ve heard. (Of course I did not get the same opportunity to taste fresh lemons while in Israel myself, as a) I was only there for 10 days, and b) the tour I was on didn’t have the time to make such a stop to do that sort of thing.

  2. Man, Rebecca gets to have ALL the fun! I had THREE berries, and the 3rd one made the lemon taste sweet for maybe two seconds. Good thing we didn’t have to pay for them!

    Funny that Asians are more likely to be supertasters, yet we like bitter stuff (like bitter melon). Supertasters aren’t supposed to like cabbage either, but I ate a pint of cole slaw last Thursday. Strange.

    Oh well – I’ll just go suck on some PTC strips and try to revel in the fact that I’m a supertaster.

  3. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to lick this wall some more before retiring to bed to dream of impossibly sweet lemon trees.

    The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!

    …or do they? Rebecca, care to enlighten us?

  4. Very interesting. I was wondering about these and whether or not they were everything they were cracked up to be.

    In case you’re wondering why — my skeptic-alarm went off when I heard that a guru-like guy was holding parties where people sit around and tell each other what they’re experiencing. It sounded like there was a possibility people might have been talking each other into agreeing on how miraculous the berries were.

    In any case, it’s nice to get an opinion from a source that I personally find trustworthy.

  5. @rebecca

    I wish I had a webcam at work so you could see a freeze frame of my face right now! I can’t believe you got through this entire blog entry without 1 sexual reference of any kind (from whatI can pick up on)!!! I’m not sure if I should be shocked, proud, taken aback…?

  6. ugh! snap out of it! you are supposed to be our freewheeling, sexually explicit, snarky and fiery skeptic goddess (don’t get me wrong I think ALL of the skepchicks are inexplicably sexy and hot)! but who could possibly take your place if you get burned out like some of the other skepchicks? no one, I say

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