A few years ago at a fruit nursery, the owner was giving me a tour of his orchard and we were tasting the fruits of the season. “You’re gonna love this”, said the owner as he handed me a lemon to taste. Expectedly, it was sour. He then gave me a small, red berry and I was instructed to eat the fruit around the seed. It was mild-flavored and pleasant, but not spectacular. (This guy must be impressed by any fruit he grows, I thought.) “Now taste the lemon”, he said. The very same lemon now tasted sweet like lemonade! “It’s a Miracle Fruit”, he explained, “After you eat one, it makes everything you eat after it taste sweet for about fifteen minutes.” Now I grow my own Miracle Fruit and always enjoy introducing people to this weird and amazing fruit.
The Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is a slow-growing, tropical, evergreen shrub native to West Africa. The berry contains Miraculin, a protein that causes a sweet signal to be registered by our taste buds when acidic foods are eaten. The fruit has been researched for a variety of purposes including improving food taste in chemotherapy patients, as a sugar substitute, and as an anti-gout treatment.
Miracle Fruit is an easy plant for your yard or patio. I recommend keeping it in a well-drained, large container so it can be moved to a protected area when temperatures are expected to be under 45°F. It will grow well with a pine-bark-based potting mix, as it likes an acid soil pH of about 5. Regular irrigation, and small amounts of fruit fertilizer during the warm months will keep this plant healthy.
If grown in the sun, Miracle Fruit plants will produce berries sporadically nearly year-round. Try serving Miracle Fruit with unsweetened beverages or desserts. If you have more fruit than you want to eat fresh, freeze it for later.
For more information on gardening and farming in Osceola County, contact Extension at 321-697-3000.