Flavor Tripping

Over a year ago the NY Times published an article about the “miracle fruit”, a tiny berry that produces a curious but temporary affect on the tastebuds- it transforms certain flavors, most notably making acidic things taste sweet. It was shortly after the article came out that Kat placed an order for some berries via mail order. Not surprisingly, the NY Times article created such a wave of demand that the berries were sold out and Kat’s order was placed on hold. But over a year and a half later, voila, the purveyor came finally came through.

Miracle Berries

The picture above is a super close-up. The berries are actually about the size of a cranberry. You can see a slight frost on them because the fruit is delivered completely frozen. It turns out that this is pretty important. Kat received the berries in 2 different shipments, one that ended up slightly thawed and the other completely frozen. The effects of the slightly thawed berries only lasted for about 20 minutes whereas the completely frozen ones lasted well over an hour.

To use the berries, you pop one in your mouth, scrape the pulp and the membrane off the seed using your teeth, and then use your tongue to move the pulp all around your mouth for a couple of minutes. The longer the pulp is in contact with the tongue, the more effective the berry will be. The flavor of the berry itself is pleasant. It’s a little sweet, not particularly tart and just tastes kind of like a generic berry of some sort. You definitely don’t feel like anything interesting is going on in your mouth while you’re tasting it and you really wonder if it will actually do anything. But have faith, it is working its magic. After a recommended minimum of two minutes, you are then able to swallow what’s left of the pulp, spit out the seed and get on to the flavor tripping. Here was part of the spread of food items we experimented with:

Flavor Tripping Spread

The most pronounced affects of the berries come when tasting anything with sour acidity. As such, my favorite items were limes and lemons. The berries seem to only affect the sour aspects of foods, so it’s not as if everything just tastes like pure sugar. In fact every food item still retained its own integrity of flavor, just with enhanced sweetness. For example, you could still taste all the subtle floral nuances of fruit, so limes tasted like really good limeade and lemons like lemonade. Raspberries and blackberries which tasted mouth-puckeringly tart before the berries tasted sweet and fragrant afterwards. Grapefruit and strawberries were particularly enhanced, tasting like the best specimen of those fruit you’ve ever tried. Spicy things like tabasco still retained their heat, but tasted like a sweet hot sauce instead. The berries also had an effect, though more subtle, with things that had a bitter component. Brussels sprouts for example had its bitterness rounded out into a pleasing subtle hint of sweetness (perfect for me, since my favorite way to make brussels sprouts these days is with sweet ingredients like raisins and balsamic). Similarly, the flavor of Guinness transformed into something almost chocolatey. We also tried dipping salt and vinegar potato chips into sour cream and the result was awesome with the sour cream almost tasting like butter. Also surprisingly delicious was a store-bought lemon hummus.

Throughout the flavor tripping party we would always go back to the lemons or limes as the benchmark to determine if the effects were starting to fade. With the fully frozen miracle berries, over an hour later the limes still tasted like limeade, but things like strawberries had started to lose their sweetness. Two and a half hours in, my tastebuds were completely back to normal and that was the end of the flavor trip. And for those of you wondering if there were any side effects, the answer is no, although I think some of the guests had stomach aches, not from the berry but from eating so many crazy different things in one sitting. I mean, when’s the last time you had fruit, pickles, hot sauces, vinegars, veggies, hummus, chips, sour cream and blue cheese and washed it all down with beer and clamato? Good times.

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