Miracle fruit looks like a fat, oblong holly berry: smaller than a grape, bigger than a blueberry. The skin ranges from bright red to pale reddish-yellow. The pulp has a range of tastes, depending on the berry, from dull and flavorless to faintly sweet.
Thing is, you don’t eat miracle fruit for how it tastes … you eat it for how it makes other food taste. The miracle in miracle fruit, you see, is that after you eat it, for about a half hour, your sense of taste is radically altered. Fans of the fruit claim it converts sour and bitter flavors to sweet. Further, anything pre-sweetened will taste intensely hyper-sweet. The result? Unsweetened coffee tastes smooth, cheap wine tastes exquisite, and citrus fruits taste just like Jolly Rancher candy.
Miracle fruit has been the darling of foodie bloggers this week … and you know me: I’m not one to let an Internet trend pass me by. So, when I read about miracle fruit, I had to order some.
Miracle fruit is common in Japan, where there are actually entire restaurants devoted to it. There, the chefs serve up ultra-low calorie, low-fat desserts made from sour and bitter ingredients. But after diners chew a single miracle fruit, these nasty, healthy dishes taste like the Food of the Gods.
By contrast, miracle fruit is very hard to find in the United States. In 1973, there was a huge push to market the fruit to diabetics. (In theory, the fruit would allow diabetics to enjoy very sweet tastes while using very little sweetener.) The FDA (in the pockets of the companies producing artificial sweeteners) blocked that effort; as a result, while it’s not illegal to purchase or possess miracle fruit today … it’s illegal to market it. In other words: you can grow it and sell it … but you can’t advertise that you do.
I got mine from a fellow in Florida, sent by next-day mail in a plastic baggie. I felt like I was making a drug deal.
The First Night
Clyde and I went straight from the post office to Broad Street, where we ordered a lemon square, picked out a goat cheese and chicken pizza, and pulled ourselves some pre-sweetened beverages.
After sucking on a piece of miracle fruit and spitting out the pit, we sampled our drinks. Clyde had Diet Pepsi; I had lemonade. We had to pour both drinks out — they tasted like someone had poured fifty or sixty packets of sugar in each. The unsweetened peach mango tea was fine, though — even without sugar, it tasted a bit like one of those peach Nehi sodas.
The lemon bar, also pre-sweetened, was inedible. We set it aside after only a bite or two, because it tasted like pure powdered sugar with only the faintest hint of lemon.
Inspired, I went to the drink counter and scooped up some lemon wedges. As promised, the lemons tasted exactly like lemon candy. All sour notes disappeared; in their place, we tasted sweet, sweet sugar. On miracle fruit, you could order ice water with a twist of lemon and swear you were drinking lemonade.
When our pizza arrived, it was a marvel of altered taste. Clyde didn’t sense much of a difference — I think they left the goat cheese off his half — but my half of the pie was incredible. The cheese and tomato sauce were mildly sweet, making the whole thing taste like some deliciously smooth Italian dessert.
Later, at home, I had a square of strong dark chocolate … which, on miracle fruit, tastes much more like sweet milk chocolate.
The Second Night
Last night, we experimented again, making new discoveries. On miracle fruit, Granny Smith apples taste like very, very sweet apple pie. Melons I normally find bitter (cantaloupe, honey dew) are palatable to me. Grapes are like little bombs of syrupy-sweet flavor that explode in your mouth.
Miracle fruit makes goat cheese taste like that white frosting the Pillsbury people provide for their pop-n-fresh cinnamon rolls. It takes the bitter edge off of turnip greens. It gives moderates the bitterness of strong coffee.
The miracle in miracle fruit doesn’t extent to protein and starches; our meats, rice, bread, and potatoes tasted exactly as they always had.
Some bloggers seem eager to milk miracle fruit for maximum drama. I’ve seen claims that the effects last a half-hour or more; for us, the altered tastes lingered for about fifteen minutes, then faded quickly. I’ve seen descriptions of exquisite food orgies in which people claim to catch themselves drinking lemon juice concentrate as though it were a mild lemon-flavored soft drink. After sampling the fruit myself, I have my doubts about the veracity of such claims.
Sweet things become very sweet. Sour things become less sour and much, much sweeter. Bitter things taste smoother and sweeter. Goat cheese tastes like frosting … and citrus fruit will taste unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.
Want to experience it for yourself? Google around; you’ll find sources for seeds, clippings, and the fruit. Don’t place an ad for it, though … or you’ll be ordering some miracle fruit in hopes of making the food in the Big House more palatable.