Synsepalum dulcificum, better known as the miracle fruit plant, produces berries that are known to cause a startling effect after consumed. A person who eats these berries will taste sour foods to be sweet upon subsequent consumption, with this effect lasting up to one hour. The evergreen bush that produces these small red berries is native to West Africa, where the explorer Chevalier des Marchais discovered it in 1725.
This miracle fruit grows on a tropical plant that produces roughly two crops per year. In the wild, the plant frequently reaches heights of 20 feet (6 m), but does not do nearly as well in cultivation, rarely growing more than half that size. The flowers of this plant are produced through most of the year, and are small and white.
Synsepalum dulcificum seeds are widely available, especially on the Internet. One can acquire these seeds and grow their own miracle fruit. The plant requires an acidic soil and should be germinated in a small container, such as an egg carton. For the plant to thrive, it should be kept in moist soil away from direct sunlight. As it is a rain forest plant, it prefers very hot and humid environments. It may take up to two weeks for the seeds to germinate.
As of 2010, scientists are not entirely sure how Synsepalum dulcificum makes sour foods taste sweet, but many theories are tossed about. They do know, however, that this miracle fruit’s ability can have worrying side effects. For example, after eating a berry, a sour liquid like vinegar will taste unusually sweet, but drinking a glass of such an acidic liquid is not recommended. The same can be said for spicy foods and harmful chemicals. In rare cases, the taste buds of one’s tongue are altered for nearly an entire day instead of just one hour.
Synsepalum dulcificum has a very low sugar content and, throughout the years, many people have tried to turn it into a commercial product by using it as an artificial sweetener. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the fruit as a food additive and quickly halted attempts to commercialize it. Much controversy surrounds the miracle plant berry as of 2010, primarily due to the fact that similar artificial sweeteners are commonly sold. Due to the low crop yield of each plant and the temporary FDA ban on commercially selling the plants in the U.S., some people purchase one grape-sized miracle berry for as much as $4 United States Dollars (USD).