One proof of the wonders of nature is the aptly called miracle fruit also known as the magic or miracle berry. Synsepalum dulcificum as it was dubbed in the scientific world, this miracle berry trace its roots from tropical West Africa. This small ellipsoid berry has red colour when ripe and was borne by a small shrub under the family Sapotaceae (the family of other tropical fruits such as sapodilla, abiu, canistel and star apple). This wonder fruit has taste-changing properties which can modify the taste of sour foods, making it sweet to the tongue and was also claimed to make unsavory tasting foods delicious and pleasing to the taste buds. By just popping and chewing the fruit’s fleshy pulp prior to eating or drinking, one will experience how a sour food will change into a sweet delight. The effect would last for minutes or hours depending on how well the pulp has coated the taste buds. The taste-modifying properties of the miracle fruit led to several groups experimenting on various food and drinks and what do they taste like after chewing the miracle berry. This is what they called flavour tripping. After chewing the miracle berry, many flavour trippers tasted citrus as candy, vinegars like apple juice, sharp cheeses as cheesecake and beer like milkshake.
If you wonder what makes the sour food taste sweet, then you can blame it to the glycoprotein called ‘miraculin.’ This taste-modifying protein is a component of the pulp of the miracle fruit which when coat the taste buds will alter the way it perceives sourness, thereby making a sour food tastes sweet.
The miracle fruit has a great potential as a sweetener for diabetics. One medical research done in Taiwan showed that the fruit may be used as adjuvant for treating diabetic patients with insulin resistance because of its ability to improve insulin sensitivity. The berry has also a promise for cancer patients which undergo chemotherapy by increasing their appetite since miracle fruit intake has been shown to reduce, if not eliminate the metallic taste in the food that they eat.
There is no secret in propagating the miracle fruit. The plant can be propagated by seeds, rooted stem cuttings, and through marcotting. It adapts well to tropical climates and favors acidic soil. Growing the plant only requires organic and commercial fertilizers, and none of insecticides or herbicides. The plant is watered only when necessary, using a power sprayer with a two-inch duct hose.
The plant is pruned regularly to increase light use and to control pests, improve fruit quality and increase yield. The fruits, which are borne in clusters, ripen two months after setting. Fruiting peaks from March to May and, in less quantity, from December to February.
With all these, it is just rightful for this amazing berry to be called a nature’s wonder – a real miracle!