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How Flavor Tripping Works

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Flavor Tripping Parties
No more toe-curling shots; with miraculin, even the bad stuff goes down smooth.
No more toe-curling shots; with miraculin, even the bad stuff goes down smooth.
Peter Beavis/Taxi/Getty Images

As documented in Tom Wolfe's book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters held "acid tests" in the 1960s. These were giant parties where the public was invited to experience the trippy effects of LSD. As the Grateful Dead played, light shows and psychedelic art heightened the effects for guests who had drunk the LSD-laced Kool-Aid offered at these parties.

Flavor tripping parties are a bit tamer. People gather to consume the berry and then taste different foods together. No light show or hallucinogenics needed, just an assortment of tart and sour foods, like citrus fruits, dill pickles, sauerkraut and cheese. Then guests marvel at how lemons and limes taste like candy or how rhubarb tastes like sugar [source: Slater]. Spicy foods, such as hot mustard and Tabasco sauce, may generate an interesting reaction because you don't taste the burn, but you'll feel it in your nose and throat.

For those who like to have fun by enjoying slightly more adult beverages, miracle fruit could still have some use. Bartenders have been experimenting with miracle fruit cocktails. A woman at a flavor tripping party who tried mixing lemon sorbet with Guinness deemed the mixture to taste like a chocolate shake, and cheap tequila suddenly tasted like the good stuff [source: Farrell, Bracken]. But better tell the oenophiles to leave their wine at home; miraculin will make all wine taste like saccharine Manischewitz, according to one flavor tripper [source: Farrell, Bracken].

If you want to go flavor tripping, you'd better take a trip to the ATM first. It's certainly not the cheapest way to entertain. A single miracle berry can cost two dollars or more, and admission to the flavor tripping party described in the New York Times ran attendees 15 bucks [source: Farrell, Bracken].

You may also be in for a wait before you can host your own party. Miracle fruit grows slowly, with berries appearing on the plants only after several years. There are two or three big crops each year, with each crop yielding about 1,000 berries [source: Tran]. After those are gone, that's it. That may not be enough now that flavor tripping has found its way to the pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times (and now, of course, HowStuffWorks). Curtis Mozie, a miracle fruit grower in Florida, received orders totaling $60,000, or four times his profit the previous year, in the two days following the New York Times story [source: Tran].

But you may be wondering if there's any danger to consuming this fruit. Doctors say no, unless you're allergic to the protein. Allergic reactions to miracle fruit are relatively mild, however: Reactions may manifest themselves as nausea or cold sweats [sources, Tran, Van Atta]. One analysis found that a miracle fruit concentrate 3,000 times the normal amount consumed had no side effects [source: Cannon]. And because miraculin neutralizes only sour flavors, you can't consume miraculin and then think that swallowing a liter of battery acid or a bottle of aspirin would be tasty [source: Cannon]. It is worth remembering, however, that just because food didn't taste acidic going down, doesn't mean you didn't consume a lot of it. Many a flavor tripper has woken up the next day with a hangover involving a stomachache and mouth ulcers.

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