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April 25, 2009

by Wyatt MacKenzie

Last night I ate a lemon straight.  Then I ate another and washed it down with some lime juice.  I drank vinegar (it was wine when I opened it a month ago).  It was all delicious.  Let me tell you about Miracle fruit. Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is an obscure West African berry crammed chock full of (no joking) “miraculin,” an extremely legitimate and totally scientifically proven substance which acts as an acid blocker when it comes in contact with taste buds, temporarily rewiring them to perceive sour as sweet. Way back in 1970 the assholes at the FDA decided it was unacceptable to use miraculin as a sugar substitute which is why we don’t see it on store shelves today. Where we can see it is in the one place in the world where weirdness runs rampant and science fiction is reality— Japan. Not only have the Japanese cultivated miracle fruit, they’ve refined its extract into a more convenient and potent tablet form which thanks to the miracle of the internet may now be purchased online (or, if you’d only like a couple of tablets, from me).

That’s right, I bought miracle fruit. I consumed a distinctly FDA-unapproved product harvested in Africa, processed in Taiwan by “Sen Yuh Farm Science” and its subsidiary the “Taiwan Panbiotic Laboratories Co,” and imported by some website replete with bouncing links and flashing images that looks like it was designed in 1998. It was awesome. In the hour after consumption, three of my friends and I were able to devour a buffet of bizarre and normally inedible foods. Lemons and limes were like candy and their juice lemonade. Cottage cheese was a bizarre cake filling and grapefruit reminiscent of strawberries. Tomatoes were unbelievable. On the other hand, orange juice turned into Tang, and every wine into Manischewitz. Vodka and ouzo nearly made me throw up, but went over well with girlier palates.

Despite my editor’s uncharitable summary of my research (“so you got high and ate lemons?”) miracle fruit is in fact not any sort of drug, its chemical interactions limited strictly to the tongue, but that didn’t stop it from leaving its marks the next morning. Besides a room spattered with wine, lemon juice, and grapefruit bits, I woke up to one hell of a throat ache. As it turns out, your body will not be okay with it if you eat two lemons and drink another five ounces of their juice in one sitting. Looking at Wikipedia as I write this for downsides to the miracle fruit, I see only two. First, you can’t cook with it because heat denatures proteins like Miraculin, and second, that throat ache might actually be an “oral ulcer” caused by all the acids. I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I’ve made.

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