I'd been hearing a lot of buzz lately about the so-called miracle berry. The miracle berry, or Synsepalum dulcificum, contains a substance called miraculin that binds to your taste buds, temporarily altering them in such a way that sour foods taste sweet (the effect lasts from between 15-60 minutes).
According to Wikipedia, the berry was first documented by French explorer Chevalier des Marchais, who, during a 1725 trip to West Africa, noticed local tribes picking the berry and chewing it before meals.
Luckily for us 21st century folk, we don't need to travel to West Africa to experience the berry's peculiar effects. In my case, Houston's very own Berry Fairy, a/k/a Jenny Wang, brought one of her Flavor Tripping parties right to my doorstep.
Upon arrival, we were each given a berry and an instruction sheet about how to eat it. Eager to try it, we dove right in.
That's my berry in a baggie in the lower right hand corner of the pic.
Because all drugs come in baggies...
After a few minutes, we visited the "buffet." As one fellow tripper put it, "This is the grossest buffet ever." The offerings included lemons, limes, grapefruit, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, hummus, yogurt, brie, blue cheese, goat cheese, sweet hot pickles, pickled jalapenos, tomatillos, tomatoes, sour patch kids, and an assortment of condiments (sriracha, chili salt, vinegar, Tabasco).
Most party-goers would turn up their noses at this buffet...but not us.
My plate of "goodies"
The berry affects different people differently, and unfortunately, I think I and all of the six other people I "tripped" with were some of the unlucky ones who are less affected by the berries than most. All of us were wowed by the sour stuff, particularly the lemons, limes, and rhubarb - each of which was surprisingly delicious and sweet enough to eat plain. And the other fruits, like the grapefruit, strawberries and raspberries, were deliciously sweeter - as my friend Kimberly put it, "these taste like the best strawberries in the world" - but not really that different than they do in their normal incarnations.
Walker and Erik getting their lemon on.
But the large majority of the stuff just seemed like milder versions of themselves. Goat cheese tasted like mild goat cheese; hummus tasted like mild hummus; vinegar like, well, mild vinegar. I know these berries have transformed mere goat cheese into the likes of cheesecake and vinegar to fruit soda for others, but that wasn't the case for us. I even purchased a miracle berry pill made from three berries and took that to see if it would enhance the effect, but it didn't.
Regardless, it was a fun "trip" and I'm certainly glad to have had the experience, particularly since I think miraculin has some interesting potential as a natural sugar substitute. Would I shell out $30 (and this is with a $10 off Yelp discount) to do it again? Probably not.
If you'd like to try miracle berries for yourself and don't have access to a ready-made Flavor Tripping party, pills made out of the miracle berries can be purchased online at a very reasonable price (as of the date of this post, you can purchase 10 tablets/20 servings for $14.99). The berries themselves can be purchased from The Miracle Fruit Man starting at $3.00 apiece (minimum order of 20; price goes down if you purchase in large quantity).
Have a nice trip...