‘Flavor Trippin’ with Miracle Fruit

a photo of Miracle Fruit shrub
This article appears in the June 2011 issue of The Gateway Gardener magazine on stands now.

By Ellen Barredo

a photo of Miracle Fruit shrubEarly this winter, my local supplier of tropical plants, Rich, called with an interesting story about Miracle Fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum. While touring a Florida supplier Rich and his daughter Danielle encountered a greenhouse that contained potted Miracle Fruit with small red fruits dangling on the branches. They were told the fruit had a special quality of making sour things sweet. They were given a few red berries to try and later that night in their hotel room they popped a berry in their mouth, chewed the pulp off the pit, swirled it around in their mouth for a minute and spit it out. The berry itself had no apparent flavor. Next, they picked up sliced lemons and squeezed the juice in their mouth. Wow, very sweet lemonade! Danielle has since tested the Miracle Fruits “flavor tripping” powers. She has tasted vinegar, semi-ripe strawberries, sour grapes, store bought tomatoes, and limes. Imagine trying Guinness Stout (only for those over 21), tabasco sauce, dill pickles, muenster cheese, a fresh stalk of rhubarb–you can complete the list!

Further investigation on the web revealed a type of party I have never heard of… ‘Flavor Tripping’ parties popular in New York City and San Francisco. For an entrance fee you can attend one of these parties and taste all types of appetizers, foods and beverages of the sour sort. Could be interesting for Halloween!

How it Works

Chewing the pulp off the Miracle Fruit Berry releases a protein called miraculin, which binds with the tongues taste buds and causes sour tastes buds to experience sweetness. The effect usually lasts about one hour. There are no dangers associated with eating this berry.

What it Claims

Some people claim popping a berry before eating can eliminate the need to add more sugar and artificial sweeteners to your food. Can you imagine making all-natural lemonade or limeade with just fruit and water, drinking it? Sweeeeet!

Some cancer patients, whose chemotherapy drugs often leave a metallic taste in their mouth, claim the Miracle Fruit can improve the taste of food. Please discuss with you physician before trying this idea!

Miracle fruit is currently being studied for use with diabetic diets. The fruit’s skin also contains high levels of heart-healthy antioxidants.

How to Grow It

Good news! Miracle plants are very easy to grow indoors! This West African native is a slow grower and would do well in an east window free of cold drafts in winter. From what I read, this is an acid-loving plant and requires a soil mix with plenty of peat moss and pine bark. Miracle Fruit requires very acidic soil with a pH ranging from 4.5 to 5.8 and warm moist roots with high oxygen levels to avoid disease. I am also told it is helpful to fertilize frequently with an acid food at half strength. Miracle Fruit also enjoys a dose of micronutrients on occasion. Water the Miracle Fruit when it is slightly dry one inch down. Do not let the Miracle Fruit’s soil go very dry. I would be cautious on repotting into too large of a container. Repot in spring. I also understand the plant may be able to produce fruit twice a year if happily growing. I have not confirmed this, but hope to observe them growing and find out.

Who’s ready to grow Miracle Fruit?

My local supplier, JoAnns Greenhouse, Perryville, supplies tropical plants to many Independent Garden Centers. As noted in my story Rich makes frequent trip to Florida to purchase only the best in tropicals! Support you local growers! This year JoAnn’s is celebrating their 40th anniversary! Happy Anniversary!

Ellen Barredo studied horticulture at the St. Louis Community College at Meramec, and is a Missouri Certified Nursery Professional with more than 27 years in professional horticulture. She works at Bowood Farms and can be reached at (314) 454-6868.