Go from yuck to yum with the miracle berry.
About a year ago synsepalum dulcificum, known as the miracle fruit or miracle berry made some ripples in the food press.
In case you missed the story the first time around, these are berries that rewire your palate so that sour or bitter foods will taste sweet. Dark beer tastes like a chocolate milkshake, goat cheese turns into cake frosting, and ketchup tastes like maple syrup. Tequila goes down like apple juice, vinegar becomes wine, and wine tastes like a melted Popsicle.
What’s going on is that a protein in the miracle fruit binds with and alters the flavor of the acid in whatever foods you eat in combination with it. Low-acid foods like bananas and zucchini are unchanged. Vanilla is just vanilla. Tangy foods like onions and horseradish retain their astringent aroma but taste disorientingly bland, while worcestershire sauce will surprise you with its complexity.
The miracle fruit itself is pleasantly sweet and berry-like. It takes effect almost immediately and lasts for an hour or two. It took a first run at the American market in the 1970s. The fruit’s growers promoted its potential to sweeten foods with fewer calories than sugar and none of the health risks of artificial sweeteners. Its commercialization was abandoned when the FDA classified the fruit as an “additive” rather than a food. Recently interest has been revived by cutting-edge chefs and bartenders exploring its culinary potential and by food enthusiasts who make the fruit the centerpiece of experimental tasting parties.
Keep in mind that miracle berries change only the perception of taste, not the food’s chemistry. Your teeth, mouth, and digestive tract are as vulnerable as ever to the effects of highly acidic and spicy foods. If you want to experiment with a Tabasco-pickle juice-vermouth cocktail (and you know you will), just remember to follow it with a Tums chaser.