Many fruits are considered miraculous because of their numerous benefits to our body. However, the miracle fruit of Synsepalum dulcificum is so called because it can do a funny trick: when eaten, it causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet.
The ‘’miracle’’ is due to a glycoprotein molecule contained in the fruit which is called, how else, miraculin. When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, the miraculin binds to the tongue’s taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with low pH (resulting from ingestion of sour foods). The interesting effect lasts up to about 30 minutes until the miraculin is washed away by saliva.
Miracle fruit is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century thanks to the French explorer Reynaud Des Marchais’ records on the locals’ tradition to use the fruit to change the taste of bland or sour breads.
Although it may be a healthy replacement of sugar, until now the fruit wasn’t considered interesting for a mass production because miraculin is denatured by heating and the shelf life of the fresh fruit is only 2–3 days. As a result, miracle fruit has a price point comparable to truffles. However, a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo hopes to cultivate the miraculin through bioengineering.
Until it may become available for anyone, miracle fruit continues to be used as s as a party trick at high-end restaurants.