Discovered in the backlog of foodie podcasts I’ve been going through: one of the generically labeled NPR:Food segments detailing the curious African Miracle Fruit and the lost plans to introduce it in popsicles to Americans in the 1970′s.
The juice of this berry binds to the sweet taste bud receptors on your tongue and primes them to respond to bitter or sour items. Only when the protein of this fruit: Miraculin is bound to a bitter substance will it activate the sweet taste bud receptors on your tongue.
A couple hours after coating one’s tongue with the Miracle Fruit juice causes bitter sour items like lemons and vinegar to taste pleasantly sweet when ingested.
In the 1970′s Robert Harvey and Don Emery were developing bitter flavored sugar-free popsicles that have an outer coating of the synthesized miraculin. However, the FDA squashed these miracle popsicles by never approving miraculin for consumption in the United States. Japanese developers have utilized freeze drying to import the fragile berries of Miracle Fruit. In a specialty Tokyo restaurant, these berries are paired with low calorie bitter desserts that turn charmingly sweet only when paired with the Miracle berry.
The Miracle Fruit plants can be imported and grown in the United States for personal harvest of the berries. While heat and extreme pH diminishes the sugar bitter transforming properties of the berry, freezing of the berries does not affect the miracle properties.
A wonderful story of the fruit as trickster may explain some of the mythical appeal of Key Limes as a supposedly sweeter lime. Visitors to the garden are given samples of the nondescript Miracle Fruit which on its own doesn’t have much charm. The garden visitors are next led to a lime tree and given a sample of lime that wows the guests, much to the amusement of their garden hosts.
This has me motivated to find some Miracle Fruit of my own, and to dig out my bag of frozen key limes to see if they just might be the Emperor’s New Clothes of citrus.
Miracle Fruit Information Sources
- Miracle Fruit for sale: Order Miracle Fruit to grow for yourself.
- NPR Food Podcast about Miracle Fruit: a brief history and on-air sampling of the berries with lemon and coffee.
- The Old Sweet Lime Trick: Donna McVicar Cannon’s extremely thorough article from April 1992 Tropical Fruit News
- To Make Lemons Into Lemonade, Try ‘Miracle Fruit’: Accounts of a Miracle Fruit tasting Party