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A mouthful changes your perception of taste, making everything you eat for an hour afterward taste sweet. Lemons taste like oranges, oranges taste delightful, strawberries are to die for. Sounds like something illicit, a taste trip.

It was about a year ago I first heard of miracle fruit. It’s a berry from West Africa. There’s a chemical inside aptly called miraculin which is responsible for the flavour changing fun. Miraculin is a protein with some carbohydrate chains attached. It might work by changing the structure of taste buds, causing the sweet receptors to be activated by normally sour tasting acids. So if you have some lemon juice, your sweet receptors go “ooh, that’s sweet!” and your brain buys it. It’s a tad dodgy, as large amounts of lemon juice make you feel disgusting. May help with the treatment of scurvy though.

Miraculin and miracle fruit do not taste sweet themselves unlike curculin, a protein which comes from a plant in Malaysia that has similar taste-changing properties. There’s another plant derived class of chemical called gymnemic acids, which has the opposite effect. It’s an anti-sweetener that lasts for 10 minutes, and makes sugar water taste like regular water.

According to the Wiki Gods, a company planned to bring it to the USA as a food sweetener in the 1970’s. The FDA tentatively approved it as “generally regarded as safe” because people had been eating it for so long with no ill effects. But at the last minute, they changed their mind and said it was considered a food additive which needed more stringent testing. The company didn’t have the cashola to fund it, so that was the end of the mass market plan. For now anyway.

Want to go on your own taste trip? You can buy tablets containing dried miracle fruit from the internets. They ship all over the world. Some people like to have miracle fruit parties, where they serve a range of foodstuffs and provide the magic tablet.

It sounds like a drug to me. And drugs are bad, mmkay. A Schooner of Science is not responsible for your crazy shenanigans. But if you’ve tried it, tell me about it and post a comment below.