Flavour tripping parties have been perverting taste buds across the land lately. Available in berry or tablet form, Synsepalum dulcificum, or "miracle fruit," is advertised as a 45 minute release from your stupid boring tongue. Miracle fruit's active ingredient is miraculin, a glycoprotein, and it eliminates sour flavours by turning your mouth into a black hole of sugary-tasting goodness. It's an effective natural sweetener, and would be particularly beneficial to diabetes sufferers and others, but the FDA banned it in the 1970s. Some people have suggested that the sugar industry is behind that ban, but why would such a sweet and innocuous enterprise want to do that? Anyway, our intern Patrick had some people over to try the miracle fruit tablets he bought online, only he didn't charge his friends $15 dollars like that guy from the New York Times. It's called a potluck, dickass. They discovered that tabasco still burns your throat, Grey Goose tastes like nothing (did it ever?), and that for some reason Patrick's friend eats cottage cheese off a sharp knife. We wondered whether a sliced slab of his own tongue would taste sweet in his mouth too. Probably. After the tasting party, Patrick checked in with Adam Gollner, former Vice editor and author of The Fruit Hunters, to talk about the potential miraculin cover-up and other benefits of this super fruit.
VICE: What can you say about the miracle fruit cover-up? Why would it need to be suppressed?
Adam: All we have is conjecture, conspiracy theories, and shreds of evidence pointing at some form of sabotage. It seems apparent that someone wanted the miracle fruit banned: either the sugar lobby, or the artificial sweetener industry, or the developer of another African fruit with sweetening properties. In The Fruit Hunters I explore the different possibilities in greater detail; ultimately, it is up to the reader to decide which scenario feels the most plausible.
What foods besides what you saw in the video are effective to try?
The miracle fruit is only really effective with sour foods—it doesn't do much for bitter, salty, sweet, or spicy foods. If those foods have acidic qualities, the acidity will be converted to sweetness, but it will also retain the other taste properties: that's why the hot sauce was
still hot. The most sour foods imaginable will become sweet with miracle fruit: vinegar, ice tea with a few squirts of lemon, and my new fave—lime wedges with sour cream—it tastes like key lime pie.
What other uses can miraculin have?
The miracle fruit's greatest use is as a parlor trick, but it deserves to be explored further. The berry apparently has an effect on chemotherapy patients. Radiation treatment makes foods and drinks taste disagreeable and rubbery. According to Floridian oncologists, the miracle fruit appears to replace the persistent metallic chemical taste in patients’ mouths with a sweet flavour that allows them to enjoy eating again. It also, allegedly, counteracts cancer-induced nausea, and it appears to have an effect on deep vein thrombosis. It can also be used in the bedroom—here's what one miracle fruit grower told me: "Girls like it a lot because it makes their boyfriends really sweet. They’re very candid about why they buy it. One girl said, 'When I suck his dick it's sweet as honey.'"