Miracle Fruit – An Introduction
Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), which is also sometimes called the “miracle berry,” is a fruit that causes acidic foods (such as lemons and limes) to taste sweet. Miracle fruit contains an active glycoprotein molecule called “miraculin.” When one eats the fleshy part of the fruit, the miraculin binds to the tongue’s taste buds to produce the taste-modifying effect. This effect lasts between 15 minutes and one hour.
Although the exact cause of miracle fruit’s taste-modifying effect is not well understood, one hypothesis is that miraculin works by distorting the sweetness receptor so that it reacts to acidic foods, instead of sugar and other sweet substances.
The berry was first documented by explorer Chevalier des Marchais in a 1725 trip to West Africa. Marchais noticed that local tribes chewed the berry before meals. The plant grows in bushes up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) in its native habitat and produces two crops a year after the end of the rainy season.