Miracle Fruit shrubs have the amazing capability of changing the taste of foods; mainly sour to sweet. A lemon tastes like a lolly after chewing on a Miracle Fruit berry! The plant itself grows 2-4m tall and is quite ornamental. Suitable for most Australian gardens, containers and as indoor house plant in bright light. Read on for the full monty!
- About Miracle Fruit plants
- How to grow a Miracle Fruit Shrub
- Iron deficiency
- Eating and using Miracle fruit
- Common names
- Recommended Reading
Miracle Fruit shrubs grow to between 2 and 4m tall (mostly on the smaller end of the scale, unless in its native habitat) and is native to tropical West Africa. It is a nice-looking evergreen shrub with small white flowers, followed by red berries after 3-4 weeks. Berries are a similar size to coffee beans.
Miracle Fruit is best grown in semi-shade to full sun. In full sun, some protection from the sun during the hottest parts of the day is recommended. It is quite drought hardy and tolerant of acidic soils, with a pH as low as 4.5. It would be happy in a position where you’d grow Azalea’s or Camellia’s.
Miracle Fruit plants need protection from frost. Being native to a tropical climate, it also appreciates a good amount of humidity, although it is quite drought hardy. I would expect it to grow well in the Northern Territory, Queensland and coastal New South Wales and Victoria. It can be grown in pots, which is a great solution if your garden experiences frost. The plant itself grows quite slowly, so is quite suitable for growing in containers, which can then be moved around and placed in warmer positions, including indoors in a well lit spot.
Miracle Fruit shrubs make a great hedge, planted 2-4m apart. In an orchard setting, or for best fruiting results, space them 4m apart. First fruits can be expected after 3-4 years, and in the right conditions this fruit tree can produce 2 crops a year.
Miracle Fruit plants will grow in most soils, as long as they are well draining. It will not grow well in clay soils. Clay soil becomes waterlogged easily. You can tell when you’re Miracle Fruit is too waterlogged by wilting foliage and brown patches on the leaves (leaf scorch).
Mulch your Miracle Fruit plant very well, and at least 30cm deep, but keep the mulch at least 10cm away from the trunk to avoid rot & mould. Add coffee grounds regularly, if you have them, (just sprinkle in a 1m radius around the base of the shrub) to maintain acidity. Sulphur can be added to lower the pH of your soil and make it more acidic. Acidic soils have a pH which is lower than 7. Above 7 it becomes alkaline.
If leaves become yellow, they may need an iron supplement, especially when they are grown in more alkaline soils. Acid loving plants have trouble obtaining iron in alkaline soils, and although they can obtain iron easier from acid soils, sometimes they need a little help.
Iron deficiency is a common problem in many Australian gardens; you might notice pale green or yellow leaves, with a darker green leaf vein. Also yellowing of younger foliage. The higher the pH, the more difficult it is for plants to obtain it.
The solution would be an Iron Chelate supplement, which is generally a powder. You add the powder (read the manufacturers instructions on how much to use) to a watering can full of water, and water the whole plant, leaves and all. Problem with iron chelate is that it’s only a temporary solution, so you might need to look at changing your soil to a lower pH (see above under ‘TLC’) as a more permanent solution.
Miracle Fruit has quite an amazing characteristic. While foods like lemons taste rather sour, after eating a miracle fruit berry, their taste changes to sweet. This change from sour to sweet is due to miraculin. Miraculin is a molecule which binds to the taste buds on the tongue, causing foods to change their flavour.
The reason why this change happens is due to pH. At neutral pH, no miracles happen. However, at low pH Miraculin is able to activate your sweet receptors, and a ‘miracle’ is experienced. The effect of Miraculin lasts for up to 30 minutes (until saliva washes away the molecules).
Miracle Fruit berries themselves are low in sugar and have a mild, sweet but tangy flavour. Eat your berries fresh, straight off the tree for best results. Some reports say you could keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days, but effectiveness may be lost.
A commenter on the ABC article (reference right down the bottom) mentioned he was told by staff at Tropical Fruit World in New South Wales that the berries can be used as a quit smoking aid. He was told the cigarette smoke tastes rather yuck after chewing Miracle Fruit berries, acting as a deterrent for smoking.
Miracle Fruit has been used in West Africa for centuries. It’s exact discovery cannot be pinpointed, but has been dated back to at least the 18th century, when European explorers saw local people chewing the berry before eating their food.
Miracle Fruit, Miracle Berry, Miraculous Berry, Sweet Berry, Agbayun, Taami, Asaa, Ledidi
The Fruit Tree Handbook by Ben Pike (click the link to buy or view the full description at Booktopia.com.au. Opens in new window)
A practical guide to growing your own fruit, from designing your orchard to harvesting the fruit. Includes apples, pears, mulberries, figs and many others.