Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on June 11, 2008
How many mind-blowing experiences are there out there? I’m talking about experiences that excite and surprise you beyond your wildest dreams. Discounting illicit drugs — which while certainly mind blowing could result in the very real possibility of experiencing the inside of a cell — not that many. Sky diving, scuba diving, first viewing of 2001: A Space Odessey, the first listening of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band, childbirth or certain acts leading up to that? Well for all you thrill seekers here’s a new one for you: a fruit that temporarily alters your taste buds, turning sour foods sugar sweet.
Dubbed the miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is appearing as the guest of honor at tasting parties all over the country – the gastronomically adventurous eager to ingest the small red berry which can allegedly turn lime wedges into candy, rhubarb into sugar sticks, lemons into lemonade, Tabasco sauce into donut glaze and rich stout beer into milkshake. The miracle fruit is native to West Africa “and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century”. The unusual reaction is due to a protein called miraculin “which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids”.
With it’s miraculous properties, it’s not surprising many attempts have been made to use miraculin to create a low calorie sweetener – a product that would benefit dieters and diabetics alike. Back in the 70s American entrepreneurs, Robert Harvey and Don Emery, were able to dry out the fruit and make it into powder. However, hopes of “replacing half the world’s sugar” were dashed by the FDA, who considered miraculin an additive in need of further testing. As the fruit itself is very delicate, going bad within a day of being picked, “scientists for years have tried to genetically engineer other organisms to produce miraculin”. After a series of failure, a Japanese team from Tsukuba University finally succeeded in producing the same protein with a lettuce. However, commercial applications are still far off.
In the meantime, those in need of a truly unique sugar fix can seek out the fruit in the form of an “avant garde dessert” at Tokyo’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel or Four Season’s in Palm Beach Florida. Alternatively, lookout of for tasting parties like those offered by Flavor Tripping. This palate-altering experience will surely blow your mind.