About Miracle Fruit
A Short History of Miracle Fruit
The fascinating natural wonder that is the miracle berry plant (Sideroxylon dulcificum / Synsepalum dulcificum), sometimes known as the Miracle Berry, Magic Berry or Agbayun (In West Africa) / Taami berry (Specifically in Ghana). A plant with special & unique properties native to the wet tropical lowlands of Ghana, West Africa. The word 'Synsepalum' originates from the Greek 'syn' which means with or together, with the Latin 'sepalum' standing for 'sepal' (the leaf-like section of a flower). 'Dulcificum' spawns from the Latin 'dulcis' which means sweet or pleasant, and 'ficum' meaning fig-like or sweet.
The Miracle berry plant was first documented by a French cartographer and explorer named Chevalier des Marchais during a 1725 excursion of West Africa. At this time Marchais witnessed indigenous tribes picking the miracle berry, and chewing them before meals. The tribes used the berries for the purpose of sweetening their native food and drink, which was a sour gruel created from stale bread, Pito or Pitto (a sour beer produced from grain that has fermented) and sour palm wine amongst other things. In its native habitat the plant can grow to an astounding height of 20-feet, but in cultivation it’s rarely known to reach 10 feet. The evergreen plant produces two crops of small red miracle berries per year (more with expert growers), with white flowers that are produced for many months.
Unique Properties & Effects
The Miracle berry is flavorless in taste, but contains an active glyco-protein molecule, within miraculin, which causes the effect. When the fleshy part of the miracle berries are eaten or the tablet fully dissolved, the molecule binds to the tongue's taste buds causing, some bitter and sour foods to taste sweet. The effect is known to last thirty minutes to an hour, in some rare cases up to 2 hours. Miracle fruit should not be mistaken as a sweetener, since its effects depend on what is eaten afterwards, however it does have the effect to sweeten selected items and bring out natural sweet flavor notes in sour based foods and drinks.
This is what makes miracle berry's properties unique compared with other natural/artificial sweeteners and what makes it truly stand alone in functionality. In essence the difference with miracle berry is when tasting a sour food, is what you are tasting is the natural flavor notes of the food and not the miracle fruit itself. The sour tastes are interpreted by our taste buds as sweet, so the miracle berry tricks our taste buds senses to decode the flavors differently, to how we would usually. With Sweeteners, for example the natural sweetener Stevia, what you taste is the food and the Stevia applied, therefore tasting both. With miracle fruit it brings out the NATURAL flavors that are already in a sour food or drink item, converting them to sweetness, as opposed to applying sweetness to it. So in summary you are applying nothing to the food or drink with miracle fruit!
Miracle fruit can be very beneficial health wise. Many times the fruit has been used to help chemotherapy patients that had lost appetites due to the flavor the medicine leaves in patients mouths. It has also been used to create low calorie foods that diabetics and dieters can enjoy without any added sugar. None of these statements have been approved by the FDA, but have been by the Japanese Administration which is comparable in testing.
Miracle Fruit in the Modern day & it's Legal Status
Later in the 1970s the effort to commercialize the fruits abilities ended in a controversial failure, Robert Harvey a post graduate bio medical student in the 1960's had come across the fruit and decided to begin a company, in which miraculin was extracted from the berry with the purpose of being used as a food additive in commercial food and drink products.
Miracle berry was later legalized to be used commercially in Japan, but accusations suggested that the project in the United States was sabotaged by the sugar industry to prevent loss of business. The FDA has denied that pressure was put on it by the sugar industry, but also refused to release any files on the subject. You can find a greater reading on the background and story of Robert Harvey's story on this BBC UK news report here.
The Miracle Fruit now has a status in the United States where it can be grown, sold and consumed freely, however it cannot yet be used in food and drink products like Harvey had envisioned. Unfortunately, At the time even with the big investors on board, in the 1970's his company was unable to have the capital to pursue the years of funding for testing and research to prove the safety of miraculin, and subsequently the endeavor folded.
Ever since the fruit has been shunned from public eye with only occasional media attention briefly mentioning some uses and potential benefits. But from the Mid 2000's, growers and dedicated distributors such as ourselves, the MiracleFruitHut™ company, continue putting up a strong fight to regain attention, growth and development for this special tropical gem.