Many local food bloggers were able to get together at Roopa's place in Mount Vernon for a miracle fruit tasting party. This sounded strange when I first heard about it, but that's only because I had never heard of the miracle fruit before. Thanks to the New York Times (and Wikipedia), we know a bit more about it in the US than we ever have.
Native to West Africa, miracle fruit (or Synsepalum dulcificum) has been eaten there for a very long time (think centuries), used to make sour foods taste sweet, and bitter foods taste, well, bitter and sweet at the same time. Saltiness and umami are also unaffected. It's the sourness that is taken away, replaced by sweet. There are no known, observed or complained-about negative side effects, so it is indeed safe (despite what the FDA says). And it's not hallucinogenic, so it's completely legal as well.
I could go into a long-winded explanation of how it works. But why do that when Roopa can explain it instead? She also mentions the great pains she took in tracking it down, and how she divided it up for all of us.
It worked for everyone, but sadly, much better for others than for me. Yes it did indeed work for me, but the effects were kind of muted. That was not everyone else's experience - they tasted some serious sweetness in things as sour as lemon (it worked best with lemon), grapefuit , various vinegars, unsweetened strawberries and rhubarb, etc. Roopa took suggestions beforehand and made sure various things were there:
- Dill pickles, which then tasted like bread n' butter ones!
- Balsamic vinegar tasted like the reduced kind you find in Italian desserts!
- Tamarind pulp tasted sweet, like you get with tandoori chicken!
- Guinness tasted like Baileys!
- Unsweetened tea tasted sweetened!
- Water with lemon juice in it tasted like lemonade!
- Cream cheese and goat cheese tasted like cheesecake!
- Plus, Roopa made this great coconut gel thing using only coconut milk and a little gelatin. She did it just to make it, but it tasted sweet!
Here's what I did with my three rounds of miraculin:
Round 1 - I volunteered to take one of the pits, but I go no effect from it at all, after working it around my tongue and mouth for about 20 to 30 seconds. So Roopa let me have a second piece. This time (just my luck) it got stuck between my teeth after I chewed it up for about four or five seconds. Had I gotten it around my tongue more I know I would've tasted much more sweetness. As it was, the sour gummy bears were the sweetest thing I could taste. Orange slices, strawberry and the coconut gels also worked well for me. and while the lemons and limes didn't taste sweet to me, they were tolerably sour (no wincing), so I did indeed get some effect.
Round 2 - This is where I got the most effect from the miracle fruit. This time I carefully coated my tongue with it for about half a minute before chewing it up and swallowing. The effects lasted for about 20 minutes for me. Again, the miraculin made things much less sweet for me than for everyone else, but it did make balsamic vinegar and tamarind pulp taste sweeter, all citrus fruits taste more like candy, and dills taste like bread and butter pickles. Fiery pickled green beans were also a little sweet! And canned artichoke juice - ick - tasted like iced tea. As with Round 1, I saved the fatty things - cheeses, unsweetened chocolate and cocoa-covered peanuts - for last.
Round 3 - This round went much like the first, even though I spread it around my tongue pretty well. This time I chewed it up a little more during the spreading. Again, maybe I'm just a genetic freak, unable to get the full benefits of miracle fruit :(
I still intend to try it again to see what I was doing wrong. It's not easy to find in this area. Actually, it's pretty damn difficult. I may try buying it online freeze-dried as well as fresh - and I cannot vouch for any of the sellers (contact Roopa if you want to know where she got hers from). Good luck growing it anywhere north of Miami, though. And I may have had more of an effect with a whole berry, but with a limited supply, it made much more sense to cut it up and parcel it out. But again, great idea for a party, Roopa, and I enjoyed it a bunch!
That also includes the evil Old Bay-covered Cheetos (qv Pigtown Pigout) that Roopa and her boyfriend whipped up for us. I kept on saying "No - yes - no - yes!" to them. Yes won out in the end, of course.