Miracle Fruit: Making Parent’s Lives a Bit Easier
Have you ever tried to get your child to take icky tasting medicine? Of course you have—and it is no fun for anyone involved.
Those days can be behind you without having to wait 12 years for them to get past the difficult stage. Miracle fruit is an amazing berry-type fruit with practically no taste, but for an hour or two after eating it—everything, I mean everything—tastes deliciously sweet. Vinegar is like Kool-Aid, lemons are lemonade and Triaminic… well, your kid will love it! Good thing, too, as it seems like flu season has extended itself to be a year-round phenomena.
Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), a relative of the sapoté, was first recorded by Chevalier des Marchais during his 1775 exploration of the coast of West Africa. Marchais noticed that the local natives would eat the fruit before their meals, which consisted of rather poor-tasting fare. He tried it himself and was amazed to find everything tasted excitingly sweet.
The fruit is completely harmless and does not affect the nervous system. The way it works is that the fleshy part of the fruit contains an active glycoprotein molecule—miraculin. Miraculin binds to the taste buds and causes sour, bitter or bland food and drink to taste sweet, with the effect lasting from 30 minute to two hours.
This attractive evergreen plant can grow up to 20 feet high, though in cultivation it usually reaches about 10 feet. Growing it from seed can be touch and go until the plant is well established and it can be difficult to get the seeds to sprout. On the average, the success rate for sprouting seeds without the use of a phytohormone (plant hormone) is about 24%. Obtaining seedlings is usually the best way to go.
Miracle fruit likes humid conditions, so it grows well in low, windward areas. It can be grown indoors near a brightly lit window or outside in a lightly shaded spot. Remember that they are native to African tropical rainforests, so you wan to create an environment as close to its endemic conditions as possible.
When amending soil for planting miracle fruit, you will want to pick up a pH test kit, as the plant grows best in an acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.8. To acidify the soil, add a 50-50 mix of peat moss and perlite before planting.
Miracle fruit is not a rapid grower; however, it will begin to produce fruit when it is about a foot in height. To accelerate growth, add some blood meal to the soil for nitrogen or use an organic high nitrogen fertilizer. You can also plant some low-growing legumes such as bush beans around the perimeter of the planting hole.
Drainage is important, as waterlogged plants will succumb to root rot. Situating the planting location in a slightly sloping area is recommended, as well as putting a layer of cinders in the bottom of the planting hole to aid drainage. Water as necessary without letting the soil become bone dry. Harvest the fruit once it is red and slightly soft.
Miracle fruit should be eaten raw to have any effect. It should not be cooked because the miraculin in the fruit is an active protein and will become inactive if heated.