Szechuan buttons (Acmella oleracea) are native to the tropics of Brazil and are available year-round. They have a Chinese name due to their similarity to szechuan pepper, which also creates a tingling, popping sensation in the mouth. They are commonly cooked in salads, sauces, soups, crumbled on sorbet, used as a palate cleanser, and used as cocktail garnishes. The flavor is slightly bitter and herbal, but it's the sensation that people remember. Simply pinch off a few petals and sprinkle them in your food or drink.
So how does this work? The flowers contain a natural painkiller called spilanthol that is used to numb toothache pain. Spilanthol is similar to capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat. It triggers a reaction in the nerves in the mouth that control motor and sensory functions.
This ingredient is a bit expensive - Marx Foods sells a clamshell of 30 flowers for $39.95, but if you wanted to have an unique tasting party like a miracle fruit tasting party, one order of Szechuan buttons can entertain all your friends. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for 14 days.
(Image: Marx Foods)