Did you know that there is a fruit that changes sour foods to sweet after you eat it? It’s true! That is what the berries from Miracle Berry trees do! You can grow these amazing fruits in your own home.

In this blog post we will cover EVERYTHING you need to know about Miracle Berry so that you can try growing, fruiting, and eating one in your home too!

Miracle Berry trees like:

  • very bright light
  • well-draining, acidic soil
  • to be kept evenly moist using filtered water
  • to be given gentle fertilizers

To find out more about their care and their controversial history, keep reading below!

Table of Contents

What are Miracle Berries?

How is Miracle Berry being used?

What is the history of Miracle Berry?

Where is the Miracle Berry growing in the wild?

How do you grow a Miracle Berry Tree Indoors?

Can you grow a Miracle Berry Tree from seed?

How do you use a Miracle Berry to alter your flavor?

Where can you buy Miracle Berry trees?

Is Miracle Berry Safe?

What is my personal experience growing and consuming miracle berries?

What are Miracle Berries?

Miracle Berries are small, red berries that contain a glycoprotein, called miraculin, which alters the taste of sour or bitter foods to be delightfully sweet.

The scientific name of the miracle berry tree is Synsepalum dulcificum. It is also commonly referred to as the Miracle Berry, Miraculous Berry, and Miracle Fruit.

The miracle berry is available for purchase in both berry and tablet form, mostly from small farms that specialize in growing the fruit.

The trees which produce miracle berries can also be purchased and grown in your own home (or outdoors if you live in the right climate).

I have been growing a miracle berry tree for some time now and am excited to report that my tree has produced fruit multiple times this year, providing me the opportunity to share the berries with family and friends as well!

Photo by: questagame, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/22177425

How is Miracle Berry being used?

The Miracle berry is used both for its health benefits and for its novel flavor-altering experience.

It can be used as a sugar replacement, allowing people with diabetes to experience sweet foods without risking their health.

The ability of miracle berries to sweeten and enhance foods has also been helpful in aiding cancer patients (who have lost their sense of taste during chemotherapy and radiation) to regain some enjoyment of food.

The miracle berry is also used recreationally in high-end restaurants and for small, private parties. These experiences are often referred to as flavor-tripping!

Miracle berry’s biggest supporters believe it could be a fantastic way to diet and reduce sugar intake.

Homaro Cantu was one of these people and worked hard to educate people on the benefits of miracle berries. He also developed a cookbook designed for use with miracle berry. Here’s a little more about his cookbook:

“In [Homaro Cantu’s] new cookbook, “The Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook,Cantu explains that the berries can help in eliminating sugar and sweeteners from a diet altogether. He has developed hundreds of recipes that cut back on sugar and use the berries instead to add flavor.

The recipes in this book don’t have miracle berry as an ingredient but are designed to interact with a miracle berry tablet. Before eating place a tablet on your tongue and let it dissolve completely. It takes approximately three minutes for the pill to kick in and change sour to sweet.”

From ABC News, “Miracle Berry Diet: Could Plan Hold Key to Weightloss?,” https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2013/01/miracle-berry-diet-could-plan-hold-key-to-weight-loss

Where is the Miracle Berry growing in the wild?

Miracle berry is from West Africa. The people of West Africa have used miracle berries for hundreds of years to help sweeten bland or sour foods.

The miracle berry is found naturally in the tropics. It is accustomed to a hot, humid, and wet environment. In its natural habitat it has been known to reach up to 18 feet. As a houseplant, however, I’ve read that it rarely surpasses 5 feet.

My own tree, which is of fruiting age, is only about 2 feet tall in an 8 inch pot.

Photo by: questagame, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/22177425

What is the history of Miracle Berry?

In the 1970s, Robert Harvey figured out a way to use Miracle Berry as a sugar replacement in foods. He recognized how powerful his discovery was and created a company called Miralin to begin selling and marketing miracle berry products within the United States. Before he could distribute these products, he needed FDA approval.

“The sweetening industry became somewhat concerned about the threat of this small red berry from West Africa. In Miralin’s market studies kids were going crazy over miracle berry Popsicles, diabetics were in love with it and it seemed that the days of refined sugar were numbered.” wrote Homaro Cantu, The Miracle Berry Conspiracy from Huffington Post

At the same time another businessman, Donald Rumsfeld, was developing the artificial sweetener, aspartame, and attempting to have it approved by the FDA through his company named, GD Searle.

“Searle had strong ties to the FDA and while they were developing aspartame they inserted an FDA commissioner just long enough to push aspartame through and get it approved. At the same time Robert Harvey was turning down offers in the billions. […]

Just as Miralin was about to launch, and aspartame was being approved, the Miralin was labeled a “food additive,” instead of just food, which is what it was. Basically that’s code for forcing the company to undergo years of testing which would eventually bankrupt the company. The FDA commissioner that was inserted just long enough to label miracle berries as a food additive and push aspartame through regulation was accused of allegedly accepting corporate bribes.” Cantu continued.

Nearly 50 years later, miracle berry is still not approved by the FDA as a sugar alternative, despite man-made chemical replacements (like aspartame) being approved.

“Without FDA backing, it probably won’t go any bigger than the independent farms that sell berries in bulk. It’s legal to buy whole berries, or powdered ones, and to sell them in your restaurant or cafe, but you can’t distribute miraculin-containing products in the U.S.

– Jess Zimmerman, Atlas Obsura, “The Miracle Sugar Substitute The FDA Won’t Let You Have,” https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-miracle-sugar-substitute-the-fda-wont-let-you-have

File:Starr 980529-4175 Synsepalum dulcificum.jpg
Photo by: Forest and Kim Starr, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Starr_980529-4175_Synsepalum_dulcificum.jpg

How do you grow a Miracle Berry Tree Indoors?

Miracle Berry trees have unique care requirements that aren’t hard to fulfill once you know what they are.

My care tips are based almost entirely off of Logee’s Greenhouse’s care tips. I will add their video here in case you’d like to watch them explain the care and see how they pollinate their trees.

If you prefer to read the care requirements, continue below where I will outline everything you need to know!

Soil

The MOST important aspects of care for Miracle Berry trees is getting the soil and fertilizer right.

Miracle Berry trees prefer acidic (low PH), well-draining soil, with NO fertilizer in it. They are extremely sensitive to fertilizers and can die when exposed to even low levels of salts.

To create a well-draining mix that has 0 fertilizer, Logee’s recommends using 50% peat moss and 50% perlite. I have been growing my tree with success in this mix.

I had trouble finding a bag that contained 100% peat moss and nothing else. What I ended up with was Espoma Organic Peat Moss from Amazon. I will link it here through Amazon’s affiliate program.

Espoma also has organic perlite available, which I use in all of my potting mixes. I will link it here as well.

Fertilizer

As mentioned above, Miracle Berry trees are super sensitive to fertilizer. While they do need to be fertilized to grow and fruit, it is extremely important to choose a fertilizer that is organic and has a low intensity.

I recommend Espoma’s Organic Indoor Plant Fertilizer which is a 2-2-2 strength (linked to Amazon).

I know I’ve mentioned Espoma a LOT. I’m not sponsored by them, but I wish I was! I LOVE all of their products.

Water

Miracle Berry trees prefer to stay evenly moist. To maintain a low, consistent moisture level, let the potting mix almost dry out and then water thoroughly.

You can use your finger to determine when to water by sticking your finger in the pot and ensuring the first couple inches of soil are dry.

My preferred method, however, is to use a moisture meter. I water when I see the moisture meter reading at a 3, which is the line between dry and moist.

I’ll insert the one that I purchased from Amazon below, but you can honestly use any moisture meter and it will read the same way. 🙂

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like Miracle Berry trees are sensitive to the salts in fertilizers, they are also sensitive to the salts and additives in our drinking water. To preserve the plant’s health, it is recommended to use distilled water, filtered water, or water that has been allowed to sit out for a day.

I currently use distilled water for my tree. I’ve never tried using tap water to know what the effects would be. I like my tree too much to test!

Light

Miracle Berry plants like as bright of light as you can provide in your home.

They will be happy in Southern or Western exposures, but can also be okay in Eastern exposures.

I grew and successfully fruited mine in an Eastern window before upgrading it to a West-facing window.

Pot

I am growing my Miracle Berry tree in a terracotta pot to ensure the soil doesn’t remain wet for long periods of time. If you are growing it in super high light, you may prefer to pot yours in a ceramic or plastic pot to help keep in moisture for a bit longer.

The important part of repotting is to either choose a pot that is tight-fitting and hugs the roots gently or choose a pot that is just an inch or so larger than the root mass.

Logee’s said that this plant isn’t super susceptible to root rot, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

Pollination

The trees produce small white flowers that are able to self-pollinate with minor help from you.

Pollination is super easy and fun with this plant! All you have to do is give it a nice shake during the afternoon to help them self-pollinate.

Seriously, that’s it. Just shake!

You are essentially recreating what a strong breeze would do for the plant.

Photo by: dansg, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/45344471

Can you grow a Miracle Berry Tree from seed?

Yes! I am in the process of trying this right now with the seeds I’m holding below!

Seeds from berries we just ate!

The seeds are in the same potting mix I used for my tree and were planted right after we finished eating the berries. I’ve read that the seeds are not viable for more than a day or two after harvest.

I’ve been letting the soil nearly dry out to ensure I don’t rot the seeds.

After about a week, I dug into the soil a little to check on the seeds and, to my delight, both are rooting!

I’m going to check the moisture level in the soil more frequently now to keep the seedlings evenly moist.

I’ve placed the pot on a south-facing window sill so it is getting the highest light I can provide, as well as the warmth from the sun.

Here are my seedlings as of September 8, 2020:

Here is a video of TheKiwiGrower starting Miracle Berry plants from seed so you can see the process step-by-step!

How do you use a Miracle Berry to alter your flavor?

Your berries are ready for harvest when the berry has turned completely red.

Before popping the berry into your mouth, some sites recommend you to cleanse your pallet by drinking some water. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do this and the berry still worked.

Gently chew on the berry (I say gently because there is a pit) and begin to move the pulp around your mouth to coat it.

Spit out the pit and a wait a few minutes for the miraculin to take effect

Now try some sour foods and see how they taste!

Some examples to try are: lemons, limes, coffee, dill pickles, LaCroix or similar bubbly water, brussel sprouts, stawberries, salt and vinegar chips, ketchup, vinegar, and any other foods with a sour or acidic taste.

The effect can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours.

Where can you buy Miracle Berry Trees?

Miracle berry trees are available from small houseplant growers, large greenhouses (like Logee’s), and farms specializing in Miracle fruit (like Miracle Fruit Farm).

Is the Miracle Berry Safe?

There is a lot of conflicting information regarding Miracle Berry and its safety. Many sources say that the berry is definitely safe while other locations say that miracle berry’s safety cannot be assessed until more studies have occurred.

As such, there is no definitive answer beyond that I haven’t found sources that have labelled it as definitively unsafe.

It is comforting, to me at least, that the people of West Africa have consumed this berry for hundreds of years with no known negative effects.

What is my personal experience growing and consuming Miracle Berries?

I purposefully purchased a Miracle Berry tree that was old enough to fruit – I believe it takes 4 years to get from seedling to fruiting age. It arrived in good health and was quite robust. Once we entered the growing season, it began to flower multiple times and I did my job to give it a gentle shake each afternoon. Sure enough, berries started to form and then redden.

It has since fruited a few times and is so much fun to watch even if you don’t wish to eat the berries.

When I first tried eating a Miracle Berry, it took a little time to work. I tried carrots first and saw no difference (which I now understand is because there wasn’t enough acid in the carrot to interact with the berry). I thought maybe it wouldn’t work for me.

Then I took a drink of my Lime LaCroix a few minutes later and was amazed to find that it tasted deliciously sweet and fruity!!

I tried having some coffee as well. It tasted so sweet!

All of the foods I tried didn’t change dramatically in flavor, but they were all a bit more sweet. My favorite was fresh peapods we had. They were the best tasting peapods I’ve ever tried!

In total, I think my first experience lasted about an hour and was well worth it!

Summary

Miracle berry trees are amazing plants that produce unique fruit which gives the consumer the ability to experience sour foods as sweet for a short time.

They are relatively easy to grow as long as you know what they prefer: bright light, acidic soil, very gentle fertilizers, and consistent watering.

These plants can self-pollinate with some gentle shaking during the afternoon when blooming.

The berries are fun to eat and can help to make food more palatable without adding sugar.

If you get the chance to try a miracle berry yourself, I recommend it!! Both growing the plant and eating the fruit makes for an incredible experience!

Resources used for this article:

Click to read last week’s article: Houseplant Care: What is Bright, Indirect Light?

A Natural Curiosity
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