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Miracle Fruit

Miracle fruit plants can be tricky to grow, but if done successfully can be extremely rewarding. The miracle fruit plant produces a small red berry that if eaten prior to something sour will mask its sour flavor revealing the underling sweetness. A grapefruit eaten after a miracle fruit berry is an amazing and new experience. Miracle fruit berries can even be used to aid in dieting as a way to cut out added sugar typically used to make sour foods more palatable.

Miracle Fruit Environment

Introduction

Growing the miracle fruit plant isn’t the easiest thing to do.  There are many things that can go wrong and growing miracle fruit takes attention to detail and some hard work.  With proper attention and care, growing miracle fruit plants can be a rewarding and enjoying experience.  In this post I will discuss the environment I use to grow miracle fruit plants.

Substrate

60% Peat Moss 40% Perlite

Miracle fruit plants enjoy an acidic environment.  The soil present in the parts of Africa they are native to is acidic, generally being composed of various types of loose plant matter.  It is this type of substrate that we will try to emulate.

Peat moss is a great base from which to build on.  It is good at absorbing nutrients, loosely packed, cheap and good at holding water, which as I will discuss later is very important for the plants well being.  It is easy to find, and most hardware stores carry some form of it year round.  It sometimes comes with (too little) premixed perlite and or some time release fertilizer, which while not easily controlled and less preferred, can be used in a pinch.  As always, places like Amazon and eBay are good resources if you can’t find it local.

Perlite will be the second major component in the soil.  It looks like white pebbles and helps to keep everything loose and traps moisture well.  It can help save a plant’s life it goes through an irregular watering cycle from time to time.

Peat moss and perlite will make up most of any miracle fruit soil.  I combine 60% peat moss with 40% perlite by volume to make my soils. Adding anything else will depend on the properties of these two ingredients.  Generally miracle fruit doesn’t require fertilizers at first, and adding things like nitrogen fertilizer directly to the soil is a common way people kill their plants.

One of the most important aspects of keeping a miracle fruit plant alive and producing fruit is the acidity of the soil.  Peat moss will be the major contributor of acid to the soil, but it can vary in acidity, as most commercial peat moss is treated in order to raise it’s pH (higher pH is less acidic).  In general the soil should maintain a pH between 4.5 and 6. If the pH is too high, consider adding something like sulfur to the soil, but this is a subtle art and it is easy to go too far as it lowers the pH over time.  I have read of people having some success with used coffee grounds to lower pH as well, but I shy away from them as they tend to attract mold.

If at any point the plant’s leaves start to spot or turn brown on the ends, the pH of the soil should be tested right away.  Miracle fruit plants can die quickly if their soil is not maintained to their liking, but it is completely avoidable if tended to properly.

Temperature

Miracle fruit plants like it warm.  I keep my plants between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 – 29.5 degrees Celsius).  Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or even brief exposure to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit will result in the death of the plant.

Watering

While most plants are alright with tap water, the miracle fruit plant is not.  The pH of tap water in cities often reaches into the 7’s, which is far outside of the miracle fruit plant’s comfort zone.  Using tap water over a long period of time will raise the pH of the soil enough to stunt or damage the plant.

The easiest way to gather large amounts of water with the properties necessary to make a happy miracle fruit plant is to capture rain water or to melt snow.  Rain water tends to have a pH in the mid 5’s and is easy to come by in most places.  It may be important to check local ordinances when trapping rain water, but unless there are a large number of plants to provide for and the rain is being collected in an arid climate, it will probably not be an issue.

When watering, be sure the vessel the miracle fruit plant is contained within can drain well.  Miracle fruit plants like to be in damp soil, but don’t like to sit in water.  Their roots will rot if they are left in standing water for any extended period of time.

Humidity is also important when considering the health of the plant.  Miracle fruit normally live in areas where it rains daily and as such enjoy humidity of around 80%.  This can be accomplished by enclosing them in plastic or by using humidifiers.  There is some room for error here, as I’ve had miracle fruit plants grow and even produce fruit with an average humidity level of 60%.  For best results, higher humidity is better.

Light

The final ingredient that any plant needs to survive is light.  While miracle fruit plants are picky about most everything else, their light requirements are modest.  The plants enjoy filtered sunlight and can even be grown well with artificial light.  While direct sunlight for long periods of time can have adverse effects on the plants, this is often due as much to dehydration and overheating as it is to too much light.

Conclusion

Here is  a quick list of things that help make a miracle fruit plant successful:

  1. Use a soil mixtures of 60% peat moss to 40% perlite with a pH of between 4.5 and 6.
  2. Keep the soil moist, but avoid letting the plant stand in water.
  3. 80% humidity is a good goal to shoot for, but a little lower won’t be deadly.
  4. Don’t use tap water, as its pH tends to be too high.  Using rain water is much preferred.
  5. Don’t fertilize unless one knows what they are doing.  Many plants have died from unnecessary fertilization.
  6. Keep the plant warm.  Good temperatures are 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and bad temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Avoid direct sunlight if possible.  Filtered sunlight works great.

With those tip’s a miracle fruit plant should have a shot at a decent life.

Why Miracle Fruit

Miracle Fruit

Let me start with some background.  I am a type 1 diabetic.  The short explanation for what that means is that the organ in the body which should be producing insulin isn’t doing its job.  Insulin is what the body uses to convert sugar in to usable energy.  The body has to have energy to survive, and so instead of relying on a slimy organ in my gut, I have an external organ in the form of a shot that I take some half dozen times a day.

It’s not as bad as it sounds though.  I’ve gotten used to it, and despite every carbohydrate I consume having to be metered out with medicine, I’ve coped quite well.  That doesn’t mean that every little advantage I can find to catch up to my fully functioning fellow humans isn’t great though.  It was in that pursuit that I found the Synsepalum dulcificum, or miracle fruit.

The miracle fruit plant is a slow growing, bushy tree native to Africa which produces small red berries with a most unique property.  The fruit contains a chemical called miraculin, which besides having the most creative name ever and leading me to believe that whatever scientist named it may have been on more than miracle fruit at the time, has the effect of turning sour tastes sweet.  This effect allows one to, for example, eat unsweetened lemons without puckering up.

This brings me full circle.  Miracle fruit’s sweetening properties allow me to consume any sour food product without piling sugar on top of it, which would require me to take insulin or having to endure the poor substitute of most artificial sweeteners.  Granted even lemons aren’t completely devoid of sugar; I think less is more when it comes to stabbing myself in the stomach.

Now that I have covered a bit of background, check this space later for further information about miracle fruit, its properties, and what can be done to take part in this truly unique experience.  Even if one has a fully functioning body, it’s still a great life experience, easy on diets, and is fun for the whole family.