The awesomest youth object lesson ever

September 17, 2009 | 17 comments
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Want to really knock the socks off of your youth with a fun and very different object lesson? Then try out miracle berries.

Miracle berries (or miracle fruit) are a small berry from Africa which contains a protein that temporarily blocks the sour receptors on a person’s tongue. Suddenly, lemons taste like lemonade, grapefruit tastes like candy, and vinegar like soda pop. (Check out some recent NYT and WSJ articles for more description.)

The activity is really fun. The youth watched curiously as the first volunteer tried the miracle berry tablet — and then he ate a whole lemon on the spot. Pretty soon the kids were all lined up, and the large platter of sliced lemons disappeared, as did vinegar, pickles, grapefruit.

Meanwhile the object lesson practically writes itself, and our bishop had a field day with it at the joint fireside on Sunday, repeatedly drawing parallels to the fireside theme that “some temptations make bad things seem good.” There are obvious word of wisdom parallels as well (that some substances can make people likely to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do).

Miracle berries aren’t cheap, but they aren’t super expensive either. On the east coast, berries are available (as discussed in the NYT and WSJ articles) at $1 or $2 per berry. Out west, there isn’t a good source of fresh berries (they are very perishable) so we’ve used preserved-berry tablets that we ordered online. There are a dozen other online stores selling the tablets, they range from about $8 to $15 per box of 10 tablets (20 doses). We’ve ordered from ThinkGeek and from a store called MiracleFruitPlus. By shopping around we’ve been able to buy at under $10 a box.

The experience really is fun, and it illustrates strikingly how fragile and changeable our sense of taste is. It’s a great youth activity, but also makes for a fun date or family activity. Just make sure to bring some Tums for all the lemons you eat, or you may get an upset stomach afterwards from too much acid. The berries don’t neutralize the sour, they just prevent your tongue from tasting it.

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17 Responses to The awesomest youth object lesson ever

  1. Stephanie on September 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Very cool. I’ll have to tell my husband about this. It’s a great fireside idea.

  2. Mephibosheth on September 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    PHAT.

  3. The Right Trousers on September 18, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Sliced lemons, vinegar, pickles, and grapefruit? These are bad things?

  4. James Olsen on September 18, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Loved it Kaimi. I can think of all kinds of non-object lesson uses. Will be ordering mine shortly.

  5. Johnny on September 18, 2009 at 3:59 am

    I got mine at http://www.buy-miracle-fruit.com and with the promocode “makelifesweeter” you get $2 off and they’re doing an ipod raffle… better get it quick.

  6. jeans on September 18, 2009 at 4:41 am

    How long does the effect last? And buying cool herbal pills off the internet, I dunno, this sounds sketchy. :)

  7. JamesM on September 18, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Introducing the iPod Raffle…? Well aren’t we all SOOOO glad Steve Jobs is back on the job.

  8. Bro. Jones on September 18, 2009 at 8:28 am

    So the take-away from the object lesson is, “Pre-marital sex, pornography, drugs, booze, and R-rated movies taste great until the miracle berry wears off. Unless you’re married, then the sex is okay.”

    (Kidding, kidding–I see the point.)

  9. Cynthia L. on September 18, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I’m with TRT. I actually don’t mind eating lemons and I really like grapefruit. Hey, maybe that means I can sin with impunity!

  10. Kerry Speiser on September 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    My teacher brought some folks in from http://www.theworldsbestfruit.com to our classroom over the summer at Michigan State. I hadnt heard of Miracle Fruit before that. What a crazy experience. We were learning about perception and illusion and this really hit home. I try to buy local and eat organically, so I was very hesitant to try pill sitting in front of me. However, after their presentation about the fruit farm, the ingredients, and the packaging process I was ready to go. It’s definately worth trying out.

  11. Vader on September 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I think I’d be a little uncomfortable with youth leaders conducting this activity for my children.

  12. Kaimi Wenger on September 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Why is that, Lord Vader?

    (Related question: Hacking off a son’s hand with a lightsaber — yea or nay?)

  13. Zack on September 19, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I think there are better lessons to draw from this than those about sin and temptation. Perhaps the most poignant thing about a lesson like this (to me at least) would be experiencing something in a whole new light. Perhaps my perception of the taste of lemons or of vinegar or what not is entirely different than that of someone else. I would think this is a good way to teach someone that how they interpret an event is quite dependant on what they’ve been through before it. That seems like a valuable lesson.

    I’m just throwing that out there. I think that’s the way I’d rather go with this object lesson because it seems to work on more levels.

  14. Floyd the Wonderdog on September 20, 2009 at 6:51 am

    I need some for the upcoming ward potluck.

  15. Cameron on September 20, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I had a missionary companion that would eat multiple lemons straight up in one sitting. But for the rest of us, this would be fun.

  16. Vader on September 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    #12,

    Nervous about the gastronomical consequences, I guess.

    As for your other question: I’ve always preferrred a hands-off approach to parenting.

  17. Bruce H. on September 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    >> … and grapefruit? These are bad things?

    Yes. Grapefruit is not a food. Grapefruit is a penance.

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