Miracle Fruit is well named because what it does is seemingly a miracle. It changes the taste of anything eaten after it to a sweet, delectable treat. Even Roquefort cheese will taste lovely after chewing on a berry or two. This berry can satisfy a sweet tooth without all the calories.
Miracle Fruit comes from the tropical lowlands of West Africa. Natives eat stews and soups that taste sour and bland and bread with hardly any taste at all. These people pop a few berries in their mouths and their normally foul-tasting food tastes great.
Miracle Fruit grows on a bush that can grow to 18 feet in the tropics, but in other areas it will reach about 5 feet. The leaves are dark green and long, lance-shaped. White flowers about ¼ inch in diameter appear throughout the growing season and turn into bright red, oblong berries containing one seed.
Reynaud Des Marchais was an explorer from France. He traveled around Africa, the West Indies and South America to document the culture, plants and animals in those regions. In 1725 he visited a village in West Africa and was taught how to eat the berries first so the otherwise terrible-tasting food would taste good. An article about the fruit was written by the botanist Dr. W. F. Daniell and appeared in an 1852 edition of Pharmaceutical Journal. It was thought the fruit would make some people wealthy but it was found that the berries only stayed fresh a few days. At that time they could not be transported before they went bad.
How it Works
The fruit itself is not sweet. Eating one berry will change the taste of food for about 15 to 30 minutes. The fruit is endowed with a protein called miraculin, which has the ability to change taste by binding and changing the shape of receptors in the mouth. Miraculin is nontoxic but cannot be heated and therefore cannot be cooked in food.
Gardeners can try to grow the berry indoors or in tropical climates. Soil in Africa is very acidic and full of organic matter. Therefore, peat moss is the best medium in which to grow plants, so peat moss should be mixed with Perlite. The peat moss provides an acid pH of about 5 to 6. Tap water cannot be used because the pH is too high. Rainwater often has the required pH of 5 needed to grow the plant. Miracle Fruit likes to be kept moist but not soggy. Temperatures should be consistently 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 50 degrees will kill the plants. The plants prefer high humidity but not full sun. They should be placed in filtered sun to partial shade.
Some companies provide kits with which to grow Miracle Fruit and it can be grown from seed or transplants. The berry can be frozen for up to two months. Some companies are able to make powder from the berries and put it in capsules, but this method has not been perfected yet.