When Life Gives You Lemons, Throw a Flavor-tripping Party!
By Sarah Brekke
AmesEats Flavors blogger
We all stood around in an apartment in Ames; on the kitchen counter in front of us were lemons, limes, oranges, pomegranate seeds, sake, serrano peppers, and many other sour and strong flavored foods. We grabbed the lemon wedges and cautiously bit into them; they tasted like they had been coated in sugar!
We were tasting under the influence of a little fruit commonly called the miracle fruit. The miracle fruit contains a glycoprotein, called miraculin, which alters your perception of sour foods. This glycoprotein, which is a protein that contains a carbohydrate tail, binds to the sweet receptors on your tongue while the carbohydrate end remains free. When you eat acidic foods, the acids bind to the carbohydrate tail and the protein then activates the sweet receptors on the tongue and we perceive the sensation of sweetness. This delicious effect can last up to two hours!
This past weekend, I attended my first flavor-tripping party. I was invited by some of my culinary science and food science friends, and the idea of sour foods tasting sweet really intrigued me. The host of the party pulled out a little pack of tablets and gave one to each of us. He explained that the tablet was a concentrated form of the miracle fruit extract. We put the tabs on our tongues and had to swish them around for a full five minutes. I must say that it was the longest five minutes of my life! After waiting for what seemed like a lifetime, we were finally ready to see if the claims were true.
Lemons tasted like lemon drop candies, granny smith apples were slightly sweet, and pomegranate seeds tasted like they had been coated in a sugary jelly. Orange juice tasted like watery Tang. Fruit flavored alcohol, like orange flavored rum, no longer tasted fruity and all we could taste was pure rum. We then started tasting things that weren’t sour to see if it worked on other foods. I tried a little bite of a serrano pepper and the taste wasn’t altered…neither was the heat! The interesting thing though, was that the heat only lasted for a minute or so and then was completely gone
If you are looking for a different kind of sugar rush this Halloween, consider hosting a flavor-tripping party. The internet is loaded with sites such as www.miraclefruitusa.com where you can buy tablets, freeze dried powder, and even frozen whole fruits. With potential applications for weight loss, chemo patients, and diabetics, I anticipate hearing more about this amazing little fruit in the future.