Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!

[Update 3/30/07: Miracle fruit in the Wall Street Journal! Read about it here.]

A few days ago I received an invitation from my friend and EatFoo co-blogger David Barzelay to try some “miracle fruit.” According to rumor, this unusual fruit possesses an amazing property. Eating one temporarily alters one’s sense of taste, making sour, bitter foods taste sweet and delicious. People in West Africa, native home to miracle fruit, have reportedely used it for centuries to make their diets more palatable.

It’s also a literally forbidden fruit. Attempts to market it and its active protein miraculin to diabetics were mysteriously thwarted by the FDA in the 1970s, relegating miracle fruit to underground cult status. David, however, had found a source willing to ship a supply next day air to DC from Florida.

Given David’s history of practical jokes, I was skeptical at first. Miracle fruit? Works with “miraculin?” Sounded like just the kind of crazy thing he would make up. But if it was a joke, the Athananius Kircher Society was in on it too. So with barely a touch of trepidation, I told David I was in. Besides, if worst came to worst, “libertarian foodie dies eating fruit banned by the FDA” is about the most appropriate obituary headline I could ever imagine for myself, so there was really nothing to lose.

The miracle fruit party was last night. I arrived to find a group of twenty-five or so curious people, a spread of citrus items, and, wrapped up in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator, a bunch of little red fruits: the understated star of the show, miracle fruit.

They’re bright red, about the size of an olive, odorless, and just a little bit soft. The center is mostly pit. To get the most of them, David explained that we should chew the pulpy part for about a minute and coat as much of our mouth as possible with it. Then we’d be free to spit or swallow and experience the magic of miraculin.

We started out by taking a quick taste of lime, just to get a fresh impression of what lime tastes like. Then we passed around a plate of miracle fruits, all of us taking one like eager cultists taking punch. A minute went by as we swirled the stuff around in our mouths.

The fruit itself is mostly tasteless, though slightly sweet. The pit is surrounded by a weird, slick layer of pulp. It’s not bad to eat, but one would get bored with it pretty quickly. The true test came next, as we again sampled the lime. The result? Utter astonishment. The very same lime we’d tried moments before suddenly tasted like it had been dipped in sugar. All the stinging acidity was gone, leaving only the pleasing citrus and an amazing sensation of sweetness that left us craving more.

Our sense of taste completely transformed, we orgiastically began sampling everything we could get our hands on. Lemons tasted like lemonade. Meyer lemons tasted like the sweetest oranges. Grapefruits tasted awesome, and I don’t even like grapefruit. Goat cheese tasted like candy. Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout tasted bigger and sweeter than ever. (One of us had never had a stout before. After drinking stout with miraculin, every other will probably be doomed to disappoint.)

My own contributions were a beer and a coffee. The beer was Magic Hat’s Roxy Rolles seasonal ale, which kept its intriguing flavor while losing its normally hoppy bite. For my friend who doesn’t like hoppy American beers, the miracle fruit “fixed” it.

The coffee was Counter Culture’s Rwanda Karaba, which is well-balanced and boasts some rich fruit notes. This was the one thing that the miracle fruit didn’t seem to change much for me, except perhaps for a very slight increase in sweetness. One of the other guys was amazed that he was able to drink it black, but I’m not sure if that was the result of the miracle fruit or if he just wasn’t used to drinking really good coffee.

The bottom line: miracle fruit is amazing. Imagine a party of people chomping into lemons and limes with abandon, and you’ve got an idea of its power.

As miracle fruit devotees have noted, this produce ought to be more than just a foodie’s underground novelty item. Aside from being interesting on its own merits, it has practical applications. Before the FDA stepped in it received a warm reception among diabetics who were able to enjoy sweet flavors without worrying about their sugar intake. Dieters could use it to avoid items high in calories, which is how one dessert spot in Japan markets the stuff. In Japan it’s even being sold in tablet form now. In the US, I bet innovative restaurants would do well with a dessert course of miracle fruit, citrus, and cheese.

Alas, the FDA’s refusal to allow marketing of miracle fruit has kept it an unknown treasure. The exact reasons for the ban are unknown. Perhaps lobbyists from the sugar industry blocked its approval. Or perhaps it was for the children; the FDA feared miraculin would mask the taste of aspirin and other things that are toxic in high quanities, causing kids under its influence to chow down on them. This lengthy article on miracle fruit says that miracle fruit doesn’t actually have that effect. Aspirin wasn’t on our tasting menu last night, but I believe it. The article also presents a lot of other evidence that the fruit is completely safe.

But who cares about the sugar industry? Who cares about the children? I’m not sure exactly what the FDA ban entails, whether it’s on all sales, all marketing, or just marketing as a sugar substitute. In any case, miracle fruit is awesome. Everyone should be able to try the stuff. A fruit this fun deserves a wider audience.

[Cross-posted on EatFoo.]

Update: Abi has photos.

Update 3/5/07: Recaps from Abi and David.

Update 7/8/08: I’ve now tried the miracle fruit tablets, which are easier to handle, and reviewed them here.


77 thoughts on “Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!”

  1. I also received my 10 boxes from http://www.miraclefruitworld.com/
    I was delighted with the service and i will order again!
    They also have some great recepies, and great support in different languages. Now all my friends from Spain can buy directley, and i don’t have to resell.

  2. I was involved in the original submission to FDA around 1970. The company grew Miracle Fruit in a special greenhouse in Massachusetts and had plans for a plantation in the Carribean.

    Testing of the extract was performed by a Canadian laboratory and submitted to FDA. They concluded that there was a cancer risk and that was the basis for the refusal… but does anyone believe that is a real risk? I doubt it.

    My own involvement was creation of the computer simulation to predict how fast the company could propagate the plants to produce marketable quantities, so that we could find investors… but the FDA killed the project.

  3. Miracle Fruit in NYC – NJ

    Interested in getting your hands on some of this amazing berry? Now selling Miracle Fruit in NYC/NJ! Shipping direct from Florida to your door, or available for pickup at one of the Garden of Eden/Eden Gourmet locations.

    Pelase e-mail matt@edengourmet.com for more info.

  4. I’d love to check out one of those miracle fruit dessert spots out in Japan. Who knows, maybe 1 or 2 of those may pop up here in the states…ah maybe not. Either way, I’d love to get my hands on tart and sour recipes for baked stuff to eat with miracle fruit.

  5. Loving the miracle fruit ever since i purchased a 14-17 inch plant.

    http://www.MiracleFruitHut.com Was the place i purchased from.

    Its been growing nicely n yielding berries monthly, I have not stopped showing people the experience ever since. Most my friends cant beleive it.

    Recommended for All to try and a fantastic way to diet aswell.

  6. My husband has just completed chemo and radium treatment for tonsular mestastases. He has lost his taste, as a result of the treatment and friends have recommende that he try miracle fruit. With you knowledge, would this be a good idea and which form should and could we purchase it in.

  7. Well i am actually a major grower,processor and exporter of the miracle fruit on a very large scale in Ghana(W.Africa) with a registered company.
    I am therefore ready to share my experiences with other people worldwide.
    I also make shipment both fresh and freezed-dried miraculin to any part of the world,potential buyers are therefore welcome.
    You can reach me on (love_bossman@yahoo.com).

  8. Firstly,i want want to say a very big and good work done to those who created this avenue for us to share our thoughts.
    My question is very simple and it goes like this;Do You Think The Various Fruit From the Different Continents Are The Same In Terms Of Appearance,Texture,Taste, And Above All Quality?
    I am from Ghana(Africa),help and lets find the differeces.

  9. Tried 2 new things yesterday with the miracle fruit: Guinness & rhubarb. I wished I hadn’t taken some blog’s advice by adding lemon sorbet to my Guinness. It was much better without it. Tasted creamier & smoother. The rhubarb normally taste like tougher, tart celery. After the miracle fruit tablet, it reminded me of the sugar cane I ate as a kid.

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