Like a lot of people, I read an article in the New York Times in May about the “Miracle Fruit” and how people were having “flavour tripping parties” with food tasting under the influence of these berries as the main event. That was all it took, I became obsessed with the idea, read everything I could about them and earlier this month when I was ordering things for my husband for Christmas on ThinkGeek and saw tablets of the berries were available for a mere $14.99 US, I was sold and bought a pack for our New Year’s Eve festivities.
The pack contains 10 tablets, made of freeze-dried berries and each tablet, according to ThinkGeek, is two doses, although other sources say to use the whole tablet.
When people have asked me what I’m doing for New Year’s and I reply with “We’re having a Miracle Berry party!”, they immediately ask me what that entails, so I thought I’d do a post on it, followed up with a post on the actual event.
The Miracle Fruit is a berry from West Africa where, when chewed and swished around the mouth for a minute, it makes bitter or sour foods eaten immediately afterward taste sweet. The fruit contains an active glycoprotein molecule called “miraculin” which, from my research, binds to the sweetness receptors on the tongue and actually changes their shape so they become responsive to acids, making bitter, acid-based foods taste sweeter. For example, after eating a Miracle Berry, a lemon will taste as sweet as lemonade and you can eat it in the same way you’d eat an orange.
The effect can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours and from what I’ve been able to ascertain, the longevity of the effect is largely dependent on the foods eaten while under the influence of the berry. Acid-based foods, such as citrus fruit, make the effect last the longest, whereas fat-based foods, such as bitter cheeses, make the effect wear off sooner because the fats break down the berry’s residue in the mouth.
Here’s a video of a food blogger explaining how the berry works and instructing her guests on how to use it before a Miracle Fruit party. Note that they’re using the actual berries, which are hard to come by and expensive due to the need for overnight shipping (the berries lose their effectiveness 5 days after picking them from the tree):
Sounds pretty cool huh? So why haven’t you heard about these “Miracle Berries” before? Well, that’s because they have a somewhat shady past.
In the 1960’s, a man named Robert Harvey, who was a biomedical postgraduate student, encountered the berry and the the 1970’s he had found a way to extract the miraculin from the berries to create an artificial sweetener with zero calories, specifically to benefit those with diabetes.
According to this article from the BBC, here’s what happened:
“Harvey’s sweet dream of making the world healthier came to an abrupt end. On the eve of the launch in 1974, the US Food and Drugs Administration unexpectedly turned against the product.
Legal advice and contact with the FDA had led Harvey to believe that the extract from the berry would be allowed under the classification “generally recognised as safe”. Having been eaten before meals for centuries in west Africa, without anecdotal reports of problems, it could be assumed not to be harmful.
But the FDA decided it would be considered as an additive which required several years more testing. In the poor economic climate of 1974, this could not be funded and the company folded.”
Read the whole article for the rest of the story, it’s interesting stuff. Basically the (conspiracy) theory is that “big sugar” had a problem with the whole operation and they were in bed with the FDA, but no one knows for sure if that’s true or not.
So while the berries are legal, miraculin extract is not. Also, to be clear, the berries are NOT drugs. The only thing they affect is your tongue and the only side effect to them is the possibility of heartburn, a stomach ache or a sore tongue from eating a dozen lemons in one night.
If you search YouTube for “miracle berry” or “miracle fruit”, you can find all kinds of videos of people trying the berries and then eating all kinds of strange things from raw limes, to capers, to malt vinegar.
Here’s a video from the original New York Times party:
Here’s one where author, Adam Leith Gollner (The Fruit Hunters) talks about the fruit and gets the host of the show to try a lemon while under the influence:
And finally, here’s a clip from the british show “Richard & Judy”, where the hosts and guests of the show try the fruit and then sample various foods while under the influence.
I don’t know why, but I absolutely love watching the reactions of people when they bite into that first lemon and I can’t wait to try it myself. It’s taking all the willpower I have not to sample the Miracle Berry tablets I have in the desk.
Miracle Berry Party
So how does one throw a Miracle Berry Party? Well, the first step is to obtain the berries or their freeze-dried counterparts. As I mentioned in the beginning, the tablets are readily available at ThinkGeek fairly cheaply, but the actual berries are a lot harder to come by as the plants are finicky and only grow in hot, humid places such as Florida or their native west Africa. If you Google, there are growers who will overnight ship the berries directly to you, but there are waiting lists and some charge up to $5 per berry, along with a $45 handling fee on top of actual shipping costs. Also, from my research I’ve learned that the tablets contain about 3 berries each and the effects work better and last longer, so that’s probably the way to go.
Food is, of course, the most important element besides the berries themselves and from what I’ve read, it’s best not to be stingy about it as people WILL want to eat a lemon or two all to themselves. Here’s what we’re having at our party (although other suggestions of acid-based foods are welcome!) and there will be 4 adults and 2 children:
– 12 lemons
– 12 limes
– 3 grapefruits
– Under-ripe strawberries (easy to find in winter in Canada!)
– Sour green grapes
– Granny Smith apples
– Sour Patch Kids
– Salt & Vinegar chips
– Dill Pickle chips
– “Stout” Guinness beer (apparently under the influence of miracle berries, it tastes “chocolatey”)
Friends are possibly bringing bitter cheeses, although I’ll be personally avoiding those as to maximize the longevity of the fruit’s effects, and I’m sure we’ll come up with more foods once we’re actually in the grocery store and looking around at stuff. I wonder what coleslaw will taste like?
Anyway, if you’re interested in the Miracle Fruit/Miracle Berry, do some Googling and YouTube searches and take a look, I bet you’ll be wanting to do it too. :o)
Coming January 2nd or 3rd: (Hopefully) Pictures and video from our little miracle berry party!
Other Stuff I Found But Didn’t Know Where To Put:
– Miracle Berry Cafe where all they serve is tart desserts under 100 calories, all served with a side of miracle fruit
– Blog post with video of people having a miracle berry party
– Toronto Star article