Can the "Flavor Tripping" Berry Help Solve the Hunger Problem?

Chef Homaro Cantu thinks that the berry could revolutionize the way we feed the world by making grasses and other wild bitter plants palatable.

In 1850, the British Army Medical Department posted Dr. William F. Daniell, a surgeon, to Africa's Gold Coast. Daniell treated soldiers with Western medicines, but he also looked into native remedies, including cola nuts (which he later discovered had intense pharmacological effects) and a "Miraculous berry of Western Africa" he called Synsepalum dulcificum.

Most of us are familiar with the kola nut, but the miracle berry has only recently been making appearances—first in scientific literature and then in stories about recreational "flavor-tripping" parties. Because the fruit contains a glycoprotein called miraculin, it masks some of our sour taste bud receptors and causes the brain to misinterpret some foods as sweet. (But much like stevia, another super-sweet sugar alternative, the Food and Drug Administration denied its use as a food additive in the 1970s.)

Now, the berry's being touted by chef Homaro Cantu. At this year's TED2011, Cantu suggested that the berry could revolutionize the way we feed the world by making grasses and other wild bitter plants palatable.

He can envision distributing instructive videos and other materials to aid workers that could teach people how to cook the grasses in more appetizing ways – perhaps even an application that would allow people to scroll over a digital map of their region to see the edible grasses available and the best ways to cook them.


While the talks aren't live yet, you can watch him explain the berry on his show "Future Foods."

What do you think? Could a berry be a panacea or is this an over-simplistic solution to the very complex problem of global hunger?

Photo: (cc) Forest Starr & Kim Starr

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