Have you ever head of something called Miracle fruit?” This is a tiny fruit, native to West Africa, that looks like a cranberry but can turn that which tastes sour into something that seems to tastes sweet. Interestingly, on its own, the fruit doesn't have too much of a taste. However, let its juices coat your mouth and for the next hour, anything sour will seem to taste sweet - limes taste like maple syrup and lemons become as sweet as candy, reports say.
Researchers from Japan and France have finally explained how this little red berry plays the trick. The key mechanism is the fruit's active ingredient, miraculin, that latches on to sweet-taste receptors in the tongue and convince the brain that vinegar tastes like apple cider.
The research, led by Keiko Abe, Professor of Applied Biological Chemistry at the University of Tokyo, has been published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To me it was very exhilarating. It really is a very joyous experience. It's almost like this thing that you can't understand that is happening to you. That sense of incomprehensibility is a great feeling,” Adam Gollner, author of The Fruit Hunters, which includes sections on the miracle fruit told Discovery News, after trying the fruit.
Scientifically, it is interesting to find out how miraculin blocks the action of sour-taste receptor, Keiko Abe wrote, in an email response to IB Times.
Practically, it is important to use miraculin as a sourness modifier which could improve the flavors of vinegars, citrus fruits and other sour functional foods, Abe added.
Researchers say the substance may also prove to be a new replacement for sugar.
From an industrial point of view, we are interested in a large-scale production of miraculin because it has a good, sucrose-like taste and combines a non-caloric property. Developing a safe sweetener for anti-diabetes and anti-obesity uses is of pressing importance, Abe wrote.
Researchers back in 1968 identified miraculin, calling it a 'sweetness-inducing' and 'taste-modifying' protein from the berry plant.
Miracle fruit is bred for sale in Japan, where it is served in some restaurants, and production of the purified miraculin protein is being pursued, Abe said told Discovery news.