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15 October, 2014
FRUIT THAT TRICKS THE TONGUE
Is it possible for someone to drink a full glass of pure galgal or kaghzi nimbu juice? Will anyone be able to drink tea brewed only from neem leaves? You will say, impossible? But this can be done. One simply has to chew half berry of a miracle fruit in the mouth and then you can continue to drink galgal juice or the brew of neem leaves just like your favourite sherbet or soft drink for 40-60 minutes. Not only that, if by mistake you brought home sour kinnow oranges or grapes, you do not need to worry. Their taste can also be changed. Grapes will not be sour anymore if you a tree of miracle fruit in your garden.
Ripe fruits of miracle fruit
The fruit which works this miracle is Synsepalum dulcificum from the family Sapotaceae. It has amazing action. The fruit contains a glycoprotein mieraculin, which coats the taste buds of tongue and causes bitter or sour foods to taste sweet. The effect remains upto an hour and then disappears automatically.
Synsepalum dulcificum is originally from tropical West Africa. The tribals of that region have been using this fruit since ages to be able to eat bitter or stale food. American plant explorers discovered it 70 years back and brought it to United States. They christened it “miracle fruit” which is now official English name for it. Now in USA, you find miracle fruit plants in homes too besides the botanical gardens and research station orchards. You can also find miraclefruit fruits being sold in grocery stores all over the United States. Miracle fruit has now travelled to other parts of the world too.
That is not the end of story. A 31 year old enterprising Japanese horticulturist, Mitsuharu Shimamura, has recently been able to make tablets out of this wonder fruit and is selling these online. These tablets can be used in place of fresh berries.
Miracle fruit plant:
Miracle fruit has a small evergreen small tree which is 15-18 feet tall in its native habitat in West Africa. But outside, its height rarely exceeds 5 feet. The leaves are deep green. The flowers are white, ¼ inch wide and are produced in flushes several times a year. So there is not any particular season for this fruit and one keeps getting fruits throughout the year.
A two year old plant of miracle fruit in a friend's home garden at Miami, Florida, USA.
The fruit is a small bright red, ellipsoid berry approximately 2 to 3 cm long and containing a single seed. The fruit does not have any particular taste. However, when a fruit is eaten and the fleshy pulp coats the tongue, there is an extraordinary effect. If you put a slice of lemon in mouth, you will find the sour taste completely vanished. It will taste sweet. The aroma and other parameters of taste will remain unaffected
Propagation and culture:
New plants of miracle fruit are raised from seed as well as cuttings. The seeds loose their viability quite soon and therefore should not be purchased by mail order. This writer tried to grow miracle fruit plants from seed twice, but failed to get germination on both occasions. So, it will be better to get rooted cuttings if plant material has to come from abroad.
Miracle fruit likes acidic soils only with pH between 4.5 to 5.8. The plant can be grown like other small evergreen plants and does not require special cultivation techniques.
Africans have used miracle fruit since long. Research has been initiated on the utilization of miracle fruit and there is every chance of its becoming a commercially important fruit. Then of course it has the novelty value which attracts home growers.
So it will be a very interesting new fruit for India.