This is your tongue on LSD
Last night at a dinner party our host introduced us to something amazing.
After dinner but before dessert he passed around a box full of small red berries. We were instructed to take one, put it in our mouth, peel it with our teeth, and suck on it for about a minute. It was pleasing, somewhat sweet.
The berry is called the Miracle Fruit. What makes it special is a molecule in it, called miraculin, which binds to the tongue’s taste buds and tricks them into mistaking sour for sweet, a synesthetic bait-and-switch that your mind struggles to comprehend.
Among other things we munched whole lemons (tasted like oranges), dill pickles (like huge gherkins, only sweeter), and drank straight vinegar (like Capri Sun). The effect lasted about an hour and had us scavenging the pantry for anything we could sample with our hallucinating taste buds.
It might be the best dinner party parlor trick ever.
Turns out these berries come primarily from Ghana where they were first employed to take the edge off of palm wine (which I can attest is mouth-invertingly sour). They are mostly a novelty in Ghana still; unlike the blister nut, there’s no export market.
NPR has a story on the berry from last year.