Thursday, August 13, 2009


by Dr Mairlyn Smith

I'm a huge fan of berries. It never ceases to amaze me that those tiny little bundles can impart such a huge flavour hit.

Take blueberries for instance. With the recent heat wave British Columbia has experienced the berries have hit an all time record in production making them the biggest high bush producers in Canada and second in the world.

My BC roots are definitely showing when I tout the benefits of these amazing little blue orbs. Even if I was born in Timbuktu I'd still be plugging these antioxidant dense Lilliputian gems.

The last time it rained here in Toronto, for anyone keeping score in the weather wars that was about two hours ago, I started surfing the net and came across an article in the New York Times on miracle berries.

Hold the phone; I thought blueberries were the only miracle berries out there. Is there a contender in the house?

Blueberries are considered a super fruit by both Canadian and American food researchers. Not a miracle berry, but a super fruit none the less. Loaded with a diseasing lowering powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin, blueberries may reduce the build-up of bad LDL cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to scientists at the University of California. In animal studies a blueberry rich diet has been shown to prevent Alzheimer's as well as reduce stroke induced brain damage.

Armed with my blueberry knowledge I read the miracle berry article with great interest and a hint of healthy scepticism.

Miracle berries or miracle fruit (or try the botanical name synsepalum dulcificum) gets its name not because it tastes amazing and is good for your heart and brain but because it alters your taste buds for about one hour so that sour foods taste sweet. Hmmm. Interesting.

Lemons and vinegar taste like honey and apparently Tabasco sauce tastes like doughnut glaze. Hmmm. Weird.

This berry is a native plant from West Africa and for a hefty price tag you too can indulge in taste bud manipulation. Expect to shell out one hundred loonies for about twenty berries and that's only if you can find them in your city, note not your supermarket, your actual entire city. Best bet is to check the internet and have them flown up from either Texas or Florida. Hmmm. Expensive.


Miracle berries are highly perishable. They have to be shipped overnight packed in dry ice and must be eaten within fifteen minutes of being thawed. Local blueberries last about ten days in your fridge and you can eat them anytime after you wash them.

I'm not rolling in dough and neither are any of my foodie friends so none of us have actually had the berries, miracle or otherwise, FedExed up to experience this taste bud malarkey. So with nothing to go on except the article in the New York Times here's the deal. Apparently one little berry smashed up in your mouth and held there for about one minute is the formula for gastronomic illusion. Then its taste bud trickery and shots of vinegar all round. Wonder how your GI tract feels the morning after an evening of Tabasco shooters and eating whole lemons? I'm thinking a bottle of Pepto-Bismol may come in handy. A handful of blueberries? No worries for any day-after stomach traumas.

All things considered: flavour, availability, health, and bang for your buck? I think I'll save myself $97.00 and buy a basket of local blueberries.

Check out this GUIDE for some blueberry recipes, where the berries actually taste the way Mother Nature intended them to, no smoke and mirrors allowed.

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