Miracle Berry

When I first came across thisberry, I was dismissive because I was writing about Stevia.  I should not have been.

This berry works by adjustingyour taste receptors to accept food that is not only not sweet but also sour orbitter.  This may not sound importantuntil one recalls that everything we eat has been bred to work to our taste. Theflip side is there is very little in the natural environment that is actuallyfit for human consumption.

On top of all that, sour andbitter is a defense against us in the first place.

On the farm I grew up on, ownersin the nineteenth century had planted a wide variety of apple trees.  Out of perhaps fifteen or so scatteredthrough the fencerows, only two provided fruit fit to use as hand fruit.  Yet of the two one was sweet and scale andworm ridden and thus barely usable.  Theother was tart enough to provide an ample fall and early winter supply.  The rest could not be eaten by us or theapple worms.

My point is that we will want togrow fruit in the wild wood as a matter of good husbandry.  They have to be sour.  This berry allows us to eat them and toadjust flavor in cooked sours.

I wonder if this berry can offsetthe flavor of tannin in acorns?  Roastedacorns could be fit to eat yet.

The Miracle Berry:A Solution to World Hunger?

Is this our best weapon against famine?

A few years ago, we heard about the miracle berry, a cranberry-likefruit discovered in West Africa that tricksyour mind into thinking sour and bitter foods are sweet. The berries emerged inthe U.S.as a novelty, marketed on sites such as ThinkGeek withlines including, "Warp your taste buds" and "Fun for tastingparties." My suckerhusband bought a pack, and lo and behold, they dowork! Pop in a berry, and lemons taste like oranges. Tomatoes taste likereally, really sweet tomatoes. It's freakin' weird.  

But can these miracle berries serve a purpose beyond a cool house-partytrick?

Chicagochef Homaro Cantu thinks so. At last week's TED conference in LongBeach, he told an audience that he believed the berries could help feed peoplein famine-stricken regions by transforming what would normally be inedibleingredients, such as wild and bitter grasses, into palatable food, Wired reports.For his own two daughters, Cantu makes a faux maple syrup (a concoction of cornstarch, water, lemon juice and the miracle berry) and a faux soda (carbonatedwater, lemon juice and the berry). So sneaky.

Critics, however, say this hunger-ending method is cost-prohibitive, as itoriginally took three berries to produce one tablet. Today, though, one berrycan make 16 tablets, and Cantu says they're also experimenting withmiraculin--the plant protein that binds to the sour and bitter receptors in themouth, preventing these flavors from being tasted--in powder and an inhalableform. The berry may also have possible health benefits, serving as a naturalsweetener for diabetics and eliminating the metallic flavor chemotherapypatients taste in food.

Now, who wants some grass for dinner?   

And from Wikipedia

Synsepalum dulcificum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Synsepalum dulcificum produces berries that, when eaten,cause sour foods(such as lemons and limes)subsequently consumed to taste sweet. This effect is due to miraculin, which is usedcommercially as a sugarsubstituteCommon names for this species and its berryincludemiracle fruit[2] and miracleberry. These common names are shared also by Gymnema sylvestre and Thaumatococcusdaniellii,[2] twoother species that are used to alter the perceived sweetness of foods.Additional common names include miraculous berry [2] and sweetberry.[3][4][5] InWest Africa where the species originates,common names include agbayun,[6] taami, asaa,and ledidi.

The berry itself has a low sugar content[7] anda mildly sweet tang. It contains a glycoprotein molecule,with some trailing carbohydrate chains,called miraculin.[8][9] Whenthe fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this moleculebinds to the tongue's taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. While theexact cause for this change is unknown, one theory is that miraculin works bydistorting the shape of sweetness receptors"so that they become responsive toacids, instead of sugar and other sweet things".[10] Thiseffect lasts 15–60 minutes.[11]


The berry has been used in West Africa since at least the 18th century,when European explorer Chevalier desMarchais,[12] whosearched for many different fruits during a 1725 excursion to its native West Africa, provided anaccount of its use there. Marchais noticed that local people picked the berry from shrubs and chewed itbefore meals.

An attempt was made in the 1970s to commercialize the ability of thefruit to turn non-sweet foods into sweet foods without a caloric penalty butended in failure when the FDA classified the berry as a food additive.[7] Therewere controversial circumstances with accusations that the project wassabotaged and the research burgled by the sugar industry to prevent loss ofbusiness caused by a drop in the need for sugar.[13]The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)has always denied that pressure was put on it by the sugar industry but refusedto release any files on the subject.[14] Similararguments are noted for the FDA's regulation on Stevia now labeled as a"dietarysupplement" instead of a "sweetener".

For a time in the 1970s, US dieters couldpurchase a pill form of miraculin.[10] Itwas at this time that the idea of the "miraculin party"[10] wasconceived. Recently, this phenomenon has enjoyed some revival in food-tastingevents, referred to as "flavor-tripping parties" by some.[15] Thetasters consume sour and bitter foods, such as lemons, radishespickleshot sauce, and beer, to experience the tastechanges that occur.

Small specimen in a botanic garden

The plant is a shrub that grows up to 20 feet (6.1 m) high inits native habitat, but does not usuallygrow higher than ten feet in cultivation. The plant grows best in soils with a pH as low as 4.5 to 5.8, in anenvironment free from frost and in partial shade with high humidity.

The plants first bear fruit after growing for approximately 2–3 years,[citation needed] and produce twocrops per year, after the end of the rainyseason. It is an evergreen plantthat produces small red berries, with flowers thatare white and are produced for many months of the year.

The seeds areabout the size of coffee beans. Without the use of planthormones or electricity, the seeds have a 24% sprouting success rate.[citation needed]

Miraculin isnow being produced by transgenic Tomato plants.[16],[17]


In tropical West Africa, where thisspecies originates, the fruit pulp is used to sweeten palm wine.[18] Historicallyit was also used to improve the flavor of maize bread gone sour.[6]

Attempts have been made to create a commercial sweetener from thefruit, with an idea of developing this for diabetics.[12] Fruitcultivators also report a small demand from cancerpatients, because thefruit allegedly counteracts a metallic tastein the mouth that may be one of the many side effects of chemotherapy.[12] Thisclaim has not been researched scientifically,[12] thoughin late 2008, an oncologist at Mount Sinai MedicalCenter in Miami, Florida, began a study and, by March 2009,had filed an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[11]

In Japan, miraclefruit is popular among diabetics and dieters.[8][9]

Shelf-life of the fresh fruit is only 2–3 days.[citation needed] Because miraculinis denatured by heating, for commercial use the pulp must be preserved withoutheating.[citation needed]Freeze-dried pulp isavailable in granules or in tablets, and has a shelf-life of 10 to 18 months.[citation needed]

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