PacSci Perspectives

 

Miracle Berries Explained

by | Aug 15, 2017

Miracle Berries

After the HiHo story on Miracle Berries, Pacific Science Center has been flooded with all kinds of questions about these flavor altering little fruit.

https://www.facebook.com/HiHoKids/videos/1950008198548486/

 

Is it really as amazing as the kids say it is?
The kids in HiHo are part of what makes this show amazing. Seeing the world through their eyes brings out the wonder in everyday experiences. But in this case their experience is anything but everyday. Food – especially sour food – tastes very different after eating a miracle berry. Depending on taster, sour foods either taste deliciously sweet, or may have a slight artificial sweetener quality and taste ‘too sweet’.

How do they work?
Miracle berries contain a protein, Miraculin. The protein coats the taste buds and changes their receptivity so that sour foods taste sweet. Our taste experiments show that the more sour/acidic a food is, the stronger the sweet flavor becomes.

How long does this last?
We did an informal test and had a range of responses from

15 minutes: “oh, no, this lemon doesn’t taste like candy anymore”
To an hour: “the salsa I packed for lunch tastes really wrong under the lingering influence of miracle berries”

What is Pacific Science Center’s connection to these berries?
We grow a miracle berry bush in our Tropical Butterfly House. It is sometimes covered with these little red fruits, but not reliably so. When fruit is abundant we do informal tasting activities with them, serving a lemon slice and a berry to the lucky folks who visit. Tasting is always first come-first serve, but with so many other great activities, even if you don’t taste a miracle berry you are sure to enjoy your visit.

Where can I buy these? Do you sell them?
Pacific Science Center uses all the fruit we harvest for internal programming rather than for sale. But there are several online sources that will ship freshly picked fruit. Due to its perishable nature it isn’t cheap and must be overnight shipped, but it might be worth it. You can also buy miracle berry tablets which give the same results although they don’t have the pleasant flavor of the actual berry.

How are these berries used commercially? Can they be used to cut down sugar consumption?
Miracle berries can make sour food taste sweet, so there are certainly ways they could reduce our sugar consumption. Because their protein is destroyed by cooking, they are not a good candidate for baked goods, and they only work if the food used with them is sour. So for example they are great for making lemons taste like lemonade, but they wouldn’t work in a pound cake recipe. Perhaps their greatest health benefit is that they get us interested in trying and enjoying fruits and vegetables we might not sample without them. It’s easy to eat a lot of fruit just to see how its flavor changes. In fact, some overly enthusiastic tasters have needed antacid after trying too many sour foods!

How will (name your favorite food) taste differently with them?
Pacific Science Center’s mission includes fueling a passion for experimentation! We encourage you to get hold of some miracle berries or tablets and try them on as many foods as you can think of. Let us know your findings.

 

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