On a rainy Wednesday in Coyote Point Park, CuriOdyssey staff went flavor tripping. Using Miracle Berries, also known as Synsepalum dulcificum. These ‘magical’ berries are native to West Africa and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated them as a food additive, essentially defined as any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, directly or indirectly, in it becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristic of any food. Many pundits suspect this may have been due to “big sugar” lobbying.
How does it work? Well, no one knows. What we do know is that the berries act as a Miraculin protein, causing acid to stimulate sweetness and somehow Inhibit sourness. As educator Bryan Holmes reminded us, Sensation is the information coming into your senses (light hitting your retina, sound waves entering your ears), while perception is what your brain makes of the information it gets. (What you think you see and hear).
In this case, the Miraculin protein affects sensation, essentially interfering with the taste receptors associated with sour, causing sweet taste receptors to activate in an acid environment. Think about this like glasses for your tongue in the way chemicals interact, with no effect on your brain. At neutral pH, the Miraculin inhibits sweeteners, while at an acidic pH, it enhances sweeteners.
You can even try this at home (Berries found on Amazon)!
- Chew two berry halves
- Don’t swallow them
- Move them all over your mouth
- Continue for 2 minutes
CuriO employees were able to flavor trip off pieces of chocolate, lemon juice, sour patch kids, lemon heads, apple cider vinegar and plain Greek yogurt, among other fun treats.