At the Audubon Community Market we don’t like to rely on sales gimmicks. High Quality, Naturally-Grown Local Produce should speak for itself. It’s another story, however, when nature brings the sleight of hand. For the uninitiated, Synsepalum Dulcificum, when first introduced under its more common name Miracle Fruit, sounds like the person describing it to you is giving you the business.
“So if I eat this berry, it’s going to turn sour things sweet? Thanks, Willy Wonka, but I’ll buy a bushel-full next week,” one might say in a tone laced with 90’s sarcasm.
Then the skeptics try it and within moments of letting the fruits juices coat the tongue, discover a world of pure imagination. Lemons, Greek Yogurt, Pickles, Sour beers all put on a candy sweet mask. How does it happen? It’s not the result of some mind-altering drug (though some foodies are getting together for “flavor-tripping” experiences that pair the miracle fruit with sour foods). This berry native to West Africa induces a small switch in perception in the signals the tastebuds send to the brain all because of the pulp’s naturally-occurring active ingredient – aptly named Miraculin.
Miraculin binds with the molecules which act as sour receptors in your tastebuds, building a little bridge that bypasses the bitterness and places you safely in Sugartown. Some conspiracy theorists will tell you its ability to mimic sweetness is so effective, Miraculin’s use for large-scale production was allegedly squashed in the 1970’s by the dominant sugar companies of the day. Some folks found out how to extract Miracle Fruit’s Miraculin and use it for large-scale production (though its effects weren’t as strong those found in whole, fresh fruit form). Just prior to approval, FDA required miraculin be categorized as an additive rather than a simple food stuff which would require years of further testing and money that miraculin backers did not have. Efforts to find out why the sudden obstacle appeared also ran into trouble. Requested reports related to the Miraculin proposal obtained through from Freedom of Information Act revealed missing documents, blackouts and redacted information. Pretty shifty stuff that undoubtedly left a sour taste in the mouths of miraculin proponents.
All of the chicanery, however, doesn’t mean we in central Florida can’t enjoy the actual berries for ourselves today! Lucky for the Audubon Market the Emerald Knight, for just a couple more weeks has some miracle fruit from his own crop. Get them tonight from 6-10pm in front of Stardust – Rain or Shine – and experience this natural fruit fun for the whole family!