Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner

The Miracle Fruit

The miracle fruit, (Synsepalum dulcificum), is an interesting tropical plant native to tropical Africa that produces large colorful red berries with an interesting effect. This shrub can be grown anywhere in the landscape, either in full sun or light shade, but it must be grown in acid soil and does very poorly where soil pH is too high.

Tiny flowers appear throughout the year and crops of bright-red three-quarter inch fruits are produced irregularly throughout the warm months. The fruits have a shiny red skin which overlays a thin layer of yellowish pulp surrounding a large seed with makes up about three quarters of the fruit.

The interesting feature about this plant is the unusual effect that the fruit has when you eat it. The pulp is sweet, but doesn't have any exciting flavors; what happens after you eat one is what amazes everyone. Anything sour tastes sweet after eating the miracle fruit and the effect usually lasts about one hour with most people. The sweetening effect in miracle fruit comes from a coating which is left in the mouth after eating the fruit and as this gradually wears off, so does the ability to have sour fruits taste sweet.

The miracle fruit's sweetening ability is being looked at fro commercial uses and there is some interest in extracting the sweetening ingredients in miracle fruit or producing this sweetening artificially.

Miracle fruits make great container plants and if you have outside conditions which prohibit growing miracle fruits in the ground, they are.quite happy and do well in large containers with generous amounts of organic material included in the soil mix. Miracle fruits grow slowly, but can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet at maturity. Probably the largest one in Florida is growing in the collection of Bill Whitman in Bal Harbor and this regularly produces thousands of miracle fruits.

This African berry is easily propagated by seed, but is slow growing and generally takes three to four years to reach flowering size. This slow growth has caused some interest in growing miracle fruit as a bonsai, and it will fruit quite nicely as a small size in a bonsai dish or container.

There are few pests associated with miracle fruit and you rarely if ever have to apply any type of pesticides. For best fruiting, fertilize miracle fruit lightly three to four times a year with a balanced fertilizer if growing outside. If grown as a container plant, fertilize with any typical liquid fertilizer about once every three to four weeks throughout the year.

The young, miracle fruits should be protected from cold weather, bout once they are three or four years of age, they can take temperatures down to about 26 degrees F for brief periods with no serious injury.

If you are looking for a really neat way to amaze guests at a future garden party, plant a miracle fruit in your landscape or keep it asa container plant, and the next time it's in fruit, invite friends over for a taste test to show what the fruit can do. (And be sure to plant a lime tree nearby, the follow in the tradition of may RFCI members, who will have to unwary taste the unassuming red berry, .. and then the very rare "sweet lime"! for more on this deceptive fruit, see "The Old Sweet Lime Trick'', TFN April 1992 by Donna Cannon. Ed)

Many area tropical fruit nurseries have plants available if you are looking for fruiting-size plants, or if you know friends that have existing, collect seeds and start your own.

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Joyner, Gene. "The Miracle Fruit." Tropical Fruit News - Aug. 1994. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

Published 17 Jan. 2017 LR
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