(NEW YORK) — Could a wild berry grown in West Africa change the future of food and dieting as we know it?
The answer is a resounding “yes” from Homaro Cantu, the acclaimed chef known for his futuristic gastronomy and flavor-changing dining experiences at Chicago restaurants Moto and iNG.
Cantu discovered wild berries six years ago while working with a cancer patient who’d lost her sense of taste as a result of chemotherapy, and set out to explore the plant and put it to the test in his kitchen.
Nicknamed “the miracle berry,” the organic, non-genetically modified plant contains a protein called miraculin, which latches on to the sour receptors on taste buds, temporarily inhibiting the taste of sour flavors, and changing the flavors in spicy, salty and bitter foods. A glass of water with lemon tastes like lemonade after taking the miracle berry pill.
“It tricks your tongue into thinking something that’s sour, is sweet,” Cantu tells ABC’s Good Morning America.
But flavor-tripping cuisine is not the only potential Cantu sees in the berries. In his new cookbook, The Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook, Cantu explains that the berries can help in eliminating sugar and sweeteners from a diet altogether. He has developed hundreds of recipes that cut back on sugar and use the berries instead to add flavor.
The recipes in this book don’t have the miracle berry as an ingredient but are designed to interact with a miracle berry tablet. Before eating, place a tablet on your tongue and let it dissolve completely. It takes approximately three minutes for the pill to kick in and change sour to sweet.
Lemons taste like sweet, sweet lemonade. Lime tastes like an orange, and the flavors of tomatoes, strawberries and more, pop, he says. Spices are toned down and things like hot sauce or hot pepper take on a sweet dimension, he says.
On Good Morning America, Cantu demonstrated how nonfat, plain Greek yogurt could taste like cheesecake by adding lime juice and taking a miracle berry pill. The effects of the tablets last 30 to 40 minutes.
The berries are available in a pill, powder or plant form. Cantu recommends using the tablets because they have a longer shelf-life than buying the whole berries, which last only a day in the fridge, and are more economical, he writes in the cookbook. The brand, mberry, sells 10 tablets for $15 on its website. The tablets must be stored in a cool, dry place, according to Cantu.
Cantu believes miracle berries will revolutionize eating habits, and by cutting back on the amount of refined sugar in American diets, they might help curb the rate of diabetes.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio