Miracle fruit medicine

Another miracle fruit story? Yawn. But this one has an interesting tidbit:

About five months ago, a Miami, Florida, hospital began studying whether the fruit’s sweetening effects can restore the appetite of cancer patients whose chemotherapy treatments have left them with dulled taste buds.

“What happens in patients is the food tastes so metallic and bland, it becomes repulsive,” said Dr. Mike Cusnir, a lead researcher on the project and oncologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Most of the patients undergoing chemotherapy have weight loss. Then they cut further into their diet and then this furthers the weight loss. It causes malnutrition, decreased function of the body and electrolyte imbalance.” [...]

Cusnir filed for an investigational new drug application, which is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use an unapproved product in a new patient population. His study seeks 40 cancer patients.

“The majority have given good feedback that it did improve taste,” Cusnir said. “A few patients felt there wasn’t much change. The feedback is mixed as it usually is in any situation. It’s been encouraging, but we haven’t analyzed the data so far.”

The FDA has stonewalled journalists seeking information about why the agency shut down efforts to market miraculin, the protein in miracle fruit that causes sour foods to taste sweet. Hopefully being faced with a new application will force them to be more transparent, or at least to give the berry another chance. Meeting safety standards for medicinal use might also pave the way toward getting it approved as a food additive in consumer products.

[Thanks, Julian!]

Miracle fruit man

The Miami Herald devoted some space last week to Curt Mozie, the retired postman whose miracle fruit trees hit the big time a few years ago.

“There are two major reasons miracle fruit has become popular recently, and one of them is Curtis Mozie,” said Adam Leith Gollner, author of The Fruit Hunters, a book that devotes a chapter to the history of the miracle fruit. “The fruit languished in obscurity, until Curtis came along and decided there was a venture in making this available to the public.”

That’s one reason, but what was the other? I’d guess it was my friend David Barzelay hosting his first miracle fruit party in DC in early 2007. At the time it was very hard to find the berries, with David having to track Curtis down through comments he’d left on message boards. That party led to our blog posts being picked up by BoingBoing, my own parties ending up in the Wall Street Journal and the BBC, and a typically behind-the-times NYT trend piece a year later.

At the time, I think the berries were $1 apiece and Mozie had plenty on hand. Today:

Mozie now ships out roughly 3,000 miracle fruit a week, for $3 a pop and sometimes can’t keep pace with the demand.

Curtis is a nice guy and I’m happy to see him doing so well in retirement with these improbable berries.

I’ve also been meaning to review Gollner’s Fruit Hunters book. It’s entertaining throughout and very informative; until reading it I had no conception of just how vast the world of fruit is and how our markets barely scratch the surface of the planet’s wondrous offerings. It’s some of the best food writing I’ve read in the past few years.

Big money in miracle fruit?

This blog’s favorite magical berry is listed as one of the hot new seed imports in Indonesia:

New comer fruit from overseas such as black sapote with black flesh, lulo with fine thorny skin, and butternut of which seed resembles peanut are indeed the mainstay for fruit seed cultivators. Those immigrants become a bewitching source of income. Eddy Soesanto gained IDR213,5-million turnover from common fig, IDR75-million from miracle fruit, and IDR210-million custard apple new variety for 2 years.

Have I missed out on a major business opportunity exporting miracle fruit seeds? Probably not. According to Google, 75 million rupiahs comes to just under $7,000.

Previously:
Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets
Miracle fruit: I’m a believer

Finally, sampling miracle fruit tablets

Miracle fruit tablets

I’ve had many opportunities to try fresh miracle fruit, the strange African berry that makes sour foods taste sweet, but before this weekend I’d never sampled the miracle fruit tablets that are widely available in Asia. They’ve been unavailable in the US because of a dubious decision by the FDA to deny miraculin, the fruit’s active protein, status as a “generally recognized as safe” ingredient. There’s no reason to think it’s harmful and many suspect that lobbying by the artificial sweetener industry was behind the classification (see articles by The Wall Street Journal or BBC). Instead we in the US have only been able to purchase the fruit itself, a perishable, expensive, hard-to-find berry that only grows in warm weather and acidic soil.

That’s finally changing. Given the growing interest in experiencing the effects of miraculin, a few websites have sprung up to import and sell the tablets. Made entirely of corn starch and “Mysterious Fruit Powder,” these tablets replicate the effects of miracle fruit. Miracle Fruit Express was nice enough to send me a sample for review.

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration,” cautions the instruction page that came with the package of miracle fruit tablets. “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Although there have been no reported ill effects, or any known side-effects, we cannot guarantee your safety and can not be held liable for any damage or loss of life.”

That’s not the most comforting thing to read on a package of pills that’s just been sent you by an internet vendor, but knowing that miracle fruit has been used for centuries and having tried it many times myself, I tore into the box without concern.

Miracle fruit tablets

They’re produced by the Sen Yuh Farm Science Company in Taiwan. The package says, “It is the most amazing sugar substitute known to man. It is 100% natural, has hardly any calories, and no known adverse side effects and is, all in all, good for health.”

Miracle fruit tablets

As with fresh miracle fruit, the key to making the tablets work is to let them roll around the tongue and coat the taste buds as thoroughly as possible. The tablets are mildly sweet, with a vaguely cherry-like flavor. They take about a minute to dissolve. Then, it’s time for dessert! From the food I have at home (i.e. cocktail garnishes), I assembled a plate of lemons, limes, strawberries, and a shot of fresh-squeezed lemon juice to taste after using the tablet.

Miracle fruit tablets

The taste transformation is everything I remember from my first sample of miracle fruit. The lemon and lime slices were like tart candy, the juice was pleasant to drink on its own, and the strawberries brought me back to the ones covered in confectioner’s sugar I used to eat as a kid. I couldn’t get enough of them. The effect is certainly stronger than what I’ve experienced recently with frozen berries, which tend to lose some of their potency.

Are the tablets better than the berries? Not necessarily. There’s something magical about eating a rare, fragile fruit that makes ordinary sour foods taste sweet. In a culture that’s accustomed to pills that can end our depression, put us to sleep, and extend our sex lives, getting the same effect from a tablet isn’t quite as amazing. But the fruit has some major disadvantages: it goes bad quickly, it’s costly to ship, and it’s in limited supply. Tablets last longer and can be taken any time. It’s easy to imagine dieters, diabetics, and adventurous foodies keeping a couple of them in their pockets for an afternoon treat. They couldn’t do that with the berries.

Though they lack the romance of the fruit, the tablets are cheaper and far more practical. If it weren’t for the government’s restrictive regulations, I’m sure they’d be as readily available here as they are in Asia. You can buy them now from Miracle Fruit Express. They currently go for $25 for 10, $40 for 20, and $90 for 55. Shipping is included (a nice change from the overnight shipping required for the fresh berries). For anyone who wants to sample miracle fruit without having to wait for a new crop or risk letting the berries go rotten, the tablets are a great way to try it out.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Watch this:

On the air

I’ve got a couple quick radio hits coming up this weekend. Today at 3:35 I’ll be on WBAL’s “Ron Smith Show” in Baltimore discussing the city’s proposed ban on blunts. Then tomorrow morning at 11:10 I’ll be on WGN Chicago’s “Morning Show” talking about the miracle fruit tasting experience. Tune in if you can!

Miracle fruit in the NYT

The New York Times has a feature today on miracle fruit tasting parties, an experience this blog knows a thing or two about. It’s a fun article, but while factually true, this paragraph glosses over what is in many ways the most interesting part of the story:

During the 1970s, a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration dashed hopes that an extract of miraculin could be sold as a sugar substitute. In the absence of any plausible commercial application, the miracle fruit has acquired a bit of a cult following.

As Joanna Slater uncovered for The Wall Street Journal and Adam Fowler and Tom Mangold reported for the BBC, the FDA’s decision came down under dubious circumstances and dashed the hopes of entrepreneurs who might have had a huge hit on their hands.

The Times does interview a few bartenders though, including blog friend Lance Mayhew, who mixed up a few miracle fruit cocktails for Imbibe this year. Well done, Lance!

[Thanks to Ben for the link.]

Miracle fruit on the BBC

This blog’s favorite fruit is once again in the news. Back in September, the BBC’s Tom Mangold and Adam Fowler stopped by my apartment to record a miracle berry tasting party for a documentary on the fruit’s history. They’ve done a lot of digging into how the FDA shut down miraculin products just when they were about to hit the market, denying diabetics and dieters a natural sugar alternative and relegating miracle fruit to tropical obscurity. Adam has an article up on the BBC website now, and the full documentary, including clips from our tasting party, will air on BBC4 radio tonight at 9 pm London time (4 pm EST). You can listen live here, or archived under “m” for miracle fruit for seven days here.

My friend David Barzelay introduced me to the fruit and hosted the first tasting party, which we covered here and here, lighting up lots of blog coverage and eventually leading to a front page story in The Wall Street Journal. I can only hope that someday I will accomplish something that brings me a fraction of the publicity this curious little berry has. To order some online, visit Curt Mozie, a.k.a. the Miracle Fruit Man, and good luck getting some before his current crop runs out.

[Update: "Anyone want a margarita?" It's better than "make sure it coats your tongue," but I am not producing winning quotes on these miracle fruit stories! Nevermind, I missed the opening on the live broadcast. I'm on there a bit more in the beginning to introduce the tasting.]

September’s party was a lot of fun for all involved. Photos below the break…
[Read more...]

Imbibing miracle fruit

The new issue of Imbibe arrived today and one of the features is all about this blog’s second favorite fruit, the miracle berry. Bartender Lance Mayhew describes a brief history of the fruit and offers three cocktail recipes to go along with it, including one from Jeffrey Morgenthaler that intriguingly incorporates miraculin into an egg foam. It’s not online, but should be on newsstands soon.

Previously:
Miracle fruit paternalism
Miracle fruit in the WSJ
Miracle fruit — I’m a believer!

Bill Whitman changed my lime

Bill Whitman, founder of the Rare Fruit Council International and popularizer of this blog’s adored miracle fruit, died last week. From the NY Times:

Among rare-fruit devotees, Bill Whitman, as he was known, was hailed as the only person to have coaxed a mangosteen tree into bearing fruit outdoors in the continental United States. Native to Southeast Asia, mangosteen is notoriously finicky and cold-sensitive…

Mr. Whitman managed to cultivate other fastidiously tropical species like rambutan and langsat, and he was recognized as the first in the United States to popularize miracle fruit, a berry that tricks the palate into perceiving sour tastes as sweet.

In pursuit of rare fruit, “Bill was a monomaniac,” said Stephen S. Brady, his doctor and friend, who traveled with him. “He’d hear about a fruit tree, and pursue it like a pit bull to the ends of the earth.”

Full obituary here.

Raw deal for dieters

A few days ago, the Post ran a story about gymnemic acid, the “anti-miracle fruit” mentioned here before. The acid is extracted from an herb and blocks the mouth’s sweet receptors when it’s consumed. As a result, anything sweet tastes terrible.

According to the article, a new product called Sugarest that contains the ingredient is being marketed to dieters and smokers trying to quit. From the Post:

Using a concentrated form of this ingredient, a company has developed a tablet that, when sucked or chewed, rapidly makes all sense of sweetness disappear for up to 30 minutes.

Why would someone want sweetness out of their lives, even temporarily?

George Kontonotas, president of Genotec Nutritionals Inc. in Commack, N.Y., says it helps overweight people resist sugary snacks and removes the sweet taste from tobacco smoke.

He says cigarette manufacturers put at least 20 substances into cigarettes, including cloves and apple juice extract, to make smoking more palatable. When sweet receptors on the tongue cannot sense those tastes, “the true taste of tobacco is awful.”

The taste-blocking effects of the active ingredient, gymnemic acid, have been known for some time, but the herbal tablet was introduced to stores in New York just last month.

It’s too bad this stuff is allowed while miraculin is held hostage by FDA roadblocks. If I were dieting and had the choice between a substance that makes healthy things taste sweet and another that makes delicious things taste terrible, there’s no question I’d want the former. Stupid government.

I’ve also got to correct Kontonotas’ misleading statement about the “true” taste of tobacco. As with coffee, some tobaccos taste fantastic on their own, and some are low grade and are only palatable with lots of additives (as found in most cigarettes). It doesn’t make sense to speak of the plant’s “true taste” under the influence of a drug designed to screw with your taste buds.

[Cross-posted at EatFoo.]

Miracle fruit on NPR

Miracle fruit continues its rise to fame with a story and tasting on yesterday’s “All Things Considered.” The hosts interview Adam Leith Gollner, who’s writing a book on the subject, then try the fruit for themselves. Nothing new here if you’ve been following the story, but if you want to listen, the audio is here.

Miracle fruit paternalism

From one of my friends at the miracle fruit party:

So, my girlfriend was spreading the miracle fruit story around her faculty office (she’s a physics teacher). When she told her department head about it, her immediate reaction was “that sounds like something the government should regulate.”

When asked why the government should regulate it, the department head (I’m not making this up) came up with the following hypothetical: “What if you ate this fruit, and then you drank sour milk, but didn’t know it was sour? You might drink the whole carton without knowing you’re drinking sour milk.”

There are people like this, and they are why the nanny state keeps growing.

Buy miracle fruit

Looking to buy miracle fruit? Our provider’s contact info is here.

Update 4/28/08: Miracle fruit on the BBC today! Details here. Miracle fruit seller Curt Mozie how has a website, www.miraclefruitman.com. I recommend contacting him if you want to try the fruit.

Update 7/8/08: I’ve now also tried miracle fruit tablets and reviewed them here.

Miracle fruit in the WSJ

Today’s center column on the front page of the Wall Street Journal is all about this blog’s favorite berry, miracle fruit. I held a tasting of the fruit for friends a few weeks ago. In a weird sequence of events, what I expected to be a small group of foodies turned into a sizeable party, and one of the guests was none other than the reporter writing this article. The night’s festivities are covered in the opening of the story. The offbeat center column of the Journal has always been one of my favorite features in the paper, so it’s bit of a thrill being in it.

The article [update: temporary, ungated link], which is only available to subscribers, has lots of fascinating new info about the fruit. Of special interest is the inside scoop on the murky regulatory standing of miraculin:

Miracle fruit remains in a kind of regulatory limbo in the U.S. It’s perfectly fine to grow and sell it, because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require prior approval to sell fresh fruits, though it can intercede if it suspects problems. The trickier part comes when people try to use it as an additive in other foods. That’s when regulators start asking questions.

Two American entrepreneurs, Robert Harvey and Don Emery, tried this route back in the 1970s but the venture ended in heartbreak. Their initial focus was on products for diabetics, but some of their financial backers, which included Reynolds Metals Co. and Barclays Bank PLC, had a loftier goal. “They were interested in replacing half the sugar industry in the world,” Mr. Harvey says.

Mr. Harvey figured out how to turn miracle fruit into a dried powder and then a tablet. His company, Miralin Co., explored making everything from chewing gum to a miraculin-coated drinking straw. It developed recipes for diabetics which assumed people would pop a miracle-fruit tablet before eating the results.

Reynolds, now part of Alcoa, then owned the Eskimo Pie brand of frozen snacks and suggested trying miraculin-coated ice pops. In the summer of 1974, a group of Harvard Business School students conducted ice-pop taste tests on Boston playgrounds, giving children a choice between regular ice pops and miraculin-coated ones. The children preferred the latter by a wide margin, Mr. Harvey says.

That same year brought a big setback: The FDA sent a letter calling miraculin a “food additive” requiring years of testing. The letter effectively scuttled the venture, which was on the verge of selling products and wasn’t prepared to spend money on extensive testing. Miralin filed for bankruptcy and fired 280 employees. It’s only in the past five years that “I’m able about to laugh about this instead of crying,” says Mr. Harvey, now 75 years old, who went on to a lucrative career making blood pumps used in heart surgery.

The suspicions of libertarian foodies are confirmed: the government is to blame for our lack of delicious, miraculin laced food products.

For the how my tasting party ended up in the Journal and how a failed postal delivery almost ruined the evening, read on.

After David Barzelay’s wonderful miracle fruit party two months ago and our much-linked blog entries about it, several of my friends expressed an interest in trying the fruit for themselves. The fruit has a fixed shipping cost, so it’s much more cost effective to order for a group than to order individually. So, expecting just a few people to actually be interested in coming to a party where we eat a strange, semi-illicit fruit, suck on lemons, and screw up our taste for beer and wine, I sent out an email inviting some friends over to a party of my own. To my surprise, lots of people said yes.

The fruit wasn’t going to arrive in time for the original party date, so at the last minute I had to push it back a week. This happened to be extremely fortunate, because three days later I got an email from Wall Street Journal reporter Joanna Slater. She had found my blog entry and wanted to do a story on miracle fruit. In addition to answering her questions, I invited her along to the tasting. Amazingly, she accepted the offer and agreed to come all the way down from New York to attend this exceedingly strange party.

The party was scheduled for Friday, March 2. On Thursday at 4:00 pm I still didn’t know if the fruit was going to be ripe enough to mail. Finally, around 4:30, I got a call from the supplier confirming the shipping details. We double checked the address, made sure no signature would be required for delivery, and sealed the deal. The miracle fruit party was on! I emailed the guests and Joanna to tell them we’d be tasting the next day. Everything seemed to be lined up perfectly, but Friday wasn’t going to be that easy. It went something like this:

2:00 pm: I get off work at to make sure I have plenty of time to set up the party. As I walk to my doorstep, I eagerly await the site of the miracle fruit package. As I get closer, I see there is no package. And when I finally ascend the stairs, I see my worst fear: a failed delivery notice! I drop a major F-bomb.

2:45: I run to the local post office. They tell me there’s nothing they can do because my package is on the truck. I press further and they give me the phone number of the area headquarters.

2:48 The guy at headquarters tells me I’m screwed. I tell him that’s a very big problem, that it’s their fault, and that I really need to get this package. Eventually he hands me off to the supervisor. We’ll call her Mary. Mary assures me that I can come pick up the package at Arlington headquarters when the truck comes in. That should be around 5:30, and since she’s there till 8, I should have no problem at all. I feel much better now.

3:00 I pick up my friend Chad, who’s kindly hosting the party at his apartment, and we go grocery shopping for the party. We buy ungodly amounts of citrus fruits and dark beer. The cashier thinks we’re odd. She’s right.

5:10 Taking no chances, I drive to headquarters and park in the lot. I call Mary and ask about the package. She says my neighborhood truck has arrived and puts me on hold while she looks for it.

5:11 Um, why is this taking so long?

5:12 Mary can’t find the package.

5:13 Mary looks again. I try to figure out what I’m going to tell Joanna and the other 40 guests when they arrive at Chad’s house if Mary can’t find this thing.

5:14 Nope, still not there. She concludes the driver must have dropped it off at my local post office for some reason instead. The post office I visited earlier. The one that closed 14 minutes ago. This is not looking good.

5:21 I race back to the local post office and park, possibly illegally. It’s closed, but I hear workers lingering behind the metal screens. I bang on a screen until they talk to me. I tell them Mary sent me and they finally open a door.

5:23 They say Mary must be crazy. They don’t have the package and there’s no way the driver brought it here. It’s got to be back at headquarters. They call Mary again. She looks again. At this point I’ve pretty much given up hope. Yet, amazingly, she finds it. She says it’s in her hands. Apparently, the post office was experimenting with a new system for delivering overnight packages, so it ended up on a different truck than it normally would.

5:35 I drive back to headquarters, my gas light flicking on empty for the third time, and call Mary again. I walk into the wrong door, accidentally invading the loading dock. I find Mary, she hands me the precious package, and I sign it out. All is right with the world. I’m very grateful to Mary. I hope I make it to the gas station.

Obviously, everything worked out great in the end and the party was a complete success. People were shooting pure lemon juice and loving every second of it, beers sat half empty all around the apartment, and more citrus fruit was consumed in one night than I have ever seen.

[Cross-posted at EatFoo.]

All miracle fruit, all the time

Miracle fruit forums. Not much discussion on there, but there are some good resources for buying them or growing the plants.

[Thanks, Riley!]

The anti-miracle fruit

In response to our miracle fruit posts, David got an email about an herb that has the opposite effect of our new favorite berry:

If you’re interested in another plant which dramatically affects sweetness, try the herb Gymnema sylvestre (commonly known as gurmar, or “sugar destroyer”). Placing an extract of the herb on your tongue will almost completely eliminate one’s ability to detect sweetness. However, I wouldn’t recommend a tasting party based on it… eating a banana after taking gymnena is particuarly gross experience, for example)

Yeah, I’m going to pass on the gurmar party. Wikipedia says that the herb has been used as a natural treatment for diabetes, as it may also reduce blood sugar levels when used for an extended period of time (though this has not been throroughly established).

I also got a really neat comment from Jan Walløe, who as a kid in Denmark got her hands on some miraculin tablets that her dad’s friend was trying to market in the 70s. The marketing plan failed, but she says the pills made her the star of the playground. Read it here.

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.