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What is Miracle Fruit?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Miracle fruit is an exotic tropical plant native to West Africa which produces red berries containing a substance which causes sour flavors like lemon and lime to taste sweet. The evergreen plant is sometimes grown decoratively, and is also usually featured in botanical collections because of its interesting properties. The miracle berry appears to lose its properties if stored or refrigerated, so the effects can only be enjoyed with fresh berries from the bush, although botanists are studying ways to capture the substance in the fruit.

Miracle fruit can be grown in Zones 10-11, and it is not at all frost tolerant. In areas where the temperature drops, the plant should be grown in a container so that it can be moved inside to a sunny spot near a window. It enjoys humid conditions and also prefers acidic soil, with a pH balance of 4.5 or above. When cultivated well, miracle fruit will grow to a height of approximately 12 feet (four meters), and will have dark green evergreen leaves with delicate that flowers which are produced year round. The miracle fruit berry is small, usually approximately one inch (three centimeters), and dark red in color. The bush tends to grow densely, and does not require pruning or training.

The Latin name for miracle fruit is Sideroxylon dulcificum, although it is also known as Synsepalum dulcificum daniell. In addition to growing in its native West Africa, it is also cultivated in parts of South America, Florida, Australia, and Hawaii. The almost magical substance in the berries of the miracle fruit is called Miraculin, and acts to cover the sour taste buds on the tongue for approximately two hours after being consumed. Any normally sour foods eaten while Miraculin is affecting the taste buds will taste sweet.

This curious property of the miracle fruit berry has led botanists to try and extract the substance for commercial use. It is thought that it could be used to sweeten foods for diabetics, or simply provide an interesting flavor experience. So far, these attempts have not been successful, and the plant is usually regarded as an ornamental curiosity, rather than a profitable plant, although West Africans have used the berry to make their food more interesting for centuries. Pediatricians with access to miracle fruit have also used the berries to help mask the taste of sour medicines for their patients.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By golf07 — On Jul 12, 2011

If you are planning on growing your own miracle fruit tree, like most fruit trees, you will need to give it some time before it produces the fruit.

I never seem to have the patience it takes to grow something like this. I have not tried growing miracle fruit, but tried growing some miniature lemon and lime trees and they never did produce any fruit.

Even if they had given me some fruit, I remember reading that I would need to wait about 2 years before I saw any results.

By julies — On Jul 12, 2011

You can buy miracle fruit tablets that will have a similar effect as eating the fruit berries. They contain extract from the berries, and once they dissolve in your mouth, everything will taste sweet until it wears off.

One nice thing about the tablets, is that they are safe to store and will be good for about a year.

By sunshined — On Jul 11, 2011

I live in number 5 garden zone, so could never grow this miracle fruit tree outside. I thought about planting it in a big pot and bringing it inside until I realized it can grow up to 12 feet tall.

I know they can be grown in warmer climates, but also have read that they are very expensive. Sometimes they sell for as much as $2.00 for one fruit. I have been curious about this fruit for while though and plan on tasting in when I get the chance.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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