Miracle Fruit in a Pill: mberry Tablets

by Jason Roth on June 13, 2010

Ever since reading about the existence of miracle fruit in a New York Times article, I’ve been curious to try it. The small, tart berry that supposedly would change the way your taste buds perceive the flavors of sour and bitter was intriguing. But two issues always got in the way. Fortunately, both have been solved with a new product I recently came across: mberry tablets, containing miracle fruit powder plus corn starch. Essentially, miracle fruit in a pill.

When life throws you lemons, trip on miracle fruit.

The first issue slowing me down from trying miracle fruit had been having to go out of my way to buy it. The berries spoil quickly, so rather than keeping them around until the day you feel like giving them a try, you need to eat them within a day or two. Like other New Yorkers, I’m open to new addictions; I just wasn’t convinced by it yet and didn’t feel much like traipsing across Manhattan to buy it. (Unfortunately, I don’t live or work near the Washington Square Park of miracle fruit.)

The second issue was: when exactly would I want to experience the supposed flavor-tripping caused by the berry, which would last for an hour or more? Presumably, when I’m hungry, right? But what if I don’t like the experience? I’d have to suffer through a god-awful meal that tasted like my third-grade elementary school orchestra sounded (that was me playing B flat instead of C on the saxophone), or at the very least, wait hungrily until the effects wore off. In fact, when I had bought some miracle fruit berries two summers ago, they sat uneaten because my friends and I were in the mood for a more mundane taste bud experience. Stuff like: cilantro, habanero, guacamole. Nothing that we felt required any tongue-altering substances. We couldn’t seem to work them in between the margaritas and the entrees. Fortunately, I’m happy to say after two years that I’ve overcome my issues.

The results: interesting, partly enjoyable, and with not enough residual enthusiasm to be trying it anytime soon.

mberry (one of those annoying brand names without a capital letter, but at least they leave out an exclamation point) can be purchased in New York City at various locations of Garden of Eden Gourmet. I had purchased the actual berries at the store location on 14th Street, so that’s where I stopped to see if they still sold them. The employee told me that the Chilean earthquake affected crops, so therefore they were stocking only the super-shelf-life variety. Bullshit? Maybe, but I coughed up the cash.

That night (turns out I didn’t even need to take advantage of the long-shelf-life), my wife and I decided to go for it. The moment would be early dinner, right at the bar of our local Irish pub. I opened the package.

This aspirin-sized pill won't cure a headache, but might help you in the consumption of your village's rancid fish meal porridge.

The instructions were simple: “Place one mberry tablet on your tongue and dissolve completely.” The company claims the process is simpler than the consumption of the actual berry since there’s no pit to deal with, which is bitter and to be avoided. The tablet itself tasted both sweet and sour, with a consistency like a slightly chewy Flintstones vitamin or SweeTart, and a fruit flavor of raisin or blackcurrant. It took about a minute or less to fully dissolve the tablet. And then we were ready to go.

The downside of our choice of location for the experience was that we didn’t have the super-geeky array of food items that some people prepare themselves. (See the mberry website for examples.) Here’s what we had, along with, ehem, tasting notes:

  • Guinness (beer) – I read somewhere that a Guinness would taste like a chocolate milkshake. Not quite, but a prominent sweetness was evident. And probably due to the creaminess of the stout, the sweetness didn’t seem foreign; for a small quantity, the taste was both interesting and complementary.
  • Ketel One vodka with club soda and lime - You’d be convinced that this drink had tonic rather than club soda. If you prefer your drink sweet and were on a diet (or a diabetic, I suppose) this would be just once instance when miracle fruit would come in handy.
  • Shepherd’s Pie – This was the only thing we consumed that didn’t taste particularly good sweet, even in small quantities. Some things were meant to be served savory, and if Shepherd’s Pie weren’t one of them, I’m sure Irish chefs would already be adding sugar. (Now that I think about it, I have had sweet Shepherd’s Pies in the past, and didn’t like them.)
  • Tabasco sauce (straight) – I had expected that the vinegar (the main ingredient in Tabasco) would be altered to sweet. It was, and much more than I imagined. But additionally, the strength of the spiciness was noticeably reduced. I have a high tolerance for hotness, but I wouldn’t normally be able to taste spoonfuls of straight Tabasco without experiencing some pain. So, given that your taste buds and your tongue’s pain receptors are totally different things, this means either the miracle fruit affects both, or the newfound sweetness alleviates the spice.
  • Lemons (raw) – Slices of raw lemon were by far the most enjoyable, and fun, thing we tried. If there’s any doubt about the effects of miracle fruit, eating a raw lemon changes that. The lemon, while tartness was still evident, tasted absolutely sugary. It was literally lemonade. Very cool, I have to say, and this pretty much made the experience worth it. Interestingly, if you ate several bites of lemon in a row, the tartness became more evident and the sweetness a bit less, like the lemon was starting to overpower the effects of the miracle fruit.

The effects of the mberry tablet lasted about an hour, which was longer than I would have preferred since I had moved on from Guinness to Harp and wanted my old taste buds back. All in all, though, an interesting experience, and one I’m glad I tried. But fortunately there’s enough decent food still left in this country that I probably won’t be rushing to do it again.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff June 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I’ve tried miraclefruit tablets on a couple of occasions, always after assembling a bizarre spread of completely disparate tasting choices, each selected for its natural sourness or bitterness. One highlight was goat cheese, which tasted kind of like cheesecake. Lemon and lime slices tasted like sugary candy, as you pointed out, and the Guinness and Tabasco were also fun to sample. We also decided to push the envelope and try some already-sweet things as well– a teaspoonful of granulated sugar tasted like sand, worth trying if only for the “Eww, weird!” factor.

Angel July 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

Upon a suggestion that I read online, I mixed a scoop of lemon sorbet with Guinness. The verdict? It was just too damn sweet. I liked it a lot better without the sorbet; although, I didn’t think it tasted like a chocolate shake. I’m looking forward to trying a few sour beers with the miracle fruit. Now, if I can get Russian River Supplication I’ll be happy. They don’t distribute in FL.

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