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Miracle berries grow on bushy evergreen shrubs approximately four to five meters tall. The oval-shaped fruits taper to a slight point and are two to three centimeters long. They ripen from green to bright red and are usually harvested with their coarse stem and calyx intact. The inner translucent flesh surrounds a single seed, and is mildly sweet but virtually tasteless. However, after eating a Miracle berry, the palate is altered to perceive sour foods as sweet. Limes, lemons, and even vinegar, taste completely transformed into sugary treats and fruit juice.
Miracle berries are available year-round.
Miracle berries are botanically classified as Sysepalum ducificum and are a member of the Sapotaceae family. Other names for these berries include Magic berry, Miraculous berry or Flavor berry. They contain a glycoprotein molecule called miraculin, which attaches to the taste buds and alters the sweet receptors on the tongue and changes sour flavors to sweet flavors. This flavor alteration can last from five to thirty minutes. Miracle berries should not be confused with another so-called miracle plant, Gymnema sylvestre, whose Hindi name, gurmar, means "destroyer of sugar." A native of India, its leaves are used to make medicine that decreases the absorption of sugar from the intestine and increases insulin production.
The Miracle berry is less valued for its inherent nutritional content, but rather for the otherwise unpalatable foods its makes available. For instance, many fruits high in citric acid, vitamin C, are regarded as too sour to eat alone, but are sugary sweet after eating one Miracle berry.
Mostly a novelty item, Miracle berries have been purchased in order to host tasting parties during which participants eat a berry, and then taste a variety of tart and astringent foods. In the culinary world, they can be strategically implemented in progressive tasting menus, changing a single dish from sour to sweet. The berries can be dried and pulverized for rimming the edge of a glass as a garnish for a tart cocktail.
The Miracle berry has had some unique successes in the medical field after recent experimentation with diabetes and cancer treatment. The berry’s palate altering effects have been helpful for cancer patients after receiving radiation and chemotherapy. They can be used to curb the desire for real sugar in those patients with diabetes.
The Miracle berry is native to West Africa. According to food historians, native tribes ate these berries before meals, particularly those that consisted of the somewhat bland or unpalatable foraged plants. They are normally found growing in warm to hot, wet to humid environment free from frost. The plant prefers full sun but thrives under partial shade in well-drained, acidic soil. During the 1970s producers tried to commercialize these berries, however it was not successful due to a last minute political lobbying.
Someone spotted Miracle Berries using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
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