The miracle fruit plant is basically a shrub that grows up to a height between 1.8 meters and 4.5 meters (6 feet and 15 feet) and with thick foliage. The leaves of this plant measure anything between 5 cm and 10 cm in length and they are about 2 cm to 3.7 cm in width. The leaves are glabrous on the underside and appear as clusters at the terminals of the branchlets. The plant bears white hued flowers, while the fruits are red hued and each fruit measures 2 cm in length. The fruits contain a solitary seed each.
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The plant is an evergreen tree or bush, with dark green and elongated leaves. These leaves of the miracle plant have a spire-like feature.
The berry of miracle fruit plant contains significantly low amounts of sugar, but has a mild sweet relish. This fruit encloses a glycoprotein molecule along with a few trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin. When you consume the succulent portion of the miracle fruit, this molecule sticks to the taste buds of your tongue and causes all sour foods ingested by you to taste sweet. When the pH level is neutral, miraculin attaches as well as blocks the receptors on the tongue. However, at low pH levels (which is caused by ingesting sour foods), miraculin attaches to proteins and is able to trigger the sweet receptors on the tongue, thereby causing one to perceive the sweet taste of ingested foods. This effect continues till the protein is rinsed off by saliva - somewhat 30 minutes later.
Two different species like Thaumatococcus daniellii and Gymnema sylvestre also share the name miracle berry and miracle fruit. These two species are different plants that are also employed to change the apparent sweetness of different ingested fruits.
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The miracle fruit plant was first located in West Africa, where the local inhabitants' diet included just a few basic fruits and most of them had a sour taste. Therefore, you can envisage the happiness of these people when an individual consumed some red berries and subsequently ate a meal comprising sour foods and find that everything suddenly began to taste so sweet! Often, the natives of West Africa employ the miracle fruit to make sour palm wine (a locally brewed beer) called Pito as well as their fermented maize bread called Kenkey taste sweeter.
A wonder plant having its origin in West Africa, the miracle fruit plant was unknown to the outside world till the 19th century. It was named as Synsepalum dulcificum, belonging to the Sapotaceae family, around the middle of the 19th century. In fact, this plant is related to the sapodilla, scientific name Manilkara zapota.
In fact, Bill Whitman is credited with growing the miracle fruit plant successfully for the first time in the United States. All he had was a seedling of the plant measuring about 7 inches in height and a four-inch cutting of the plant with a fruit borne on its young twigs.
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People in West Africa have been using the berry-like fruit of this plant since before the 18th century. In fact, people came to known about this miracle plant when Chevalier des Marchais, an European explorer, provided an account of the plant and its several uses in West Africa. During an excursion in 1725, Marchais had been looking for sever different fruits in West Africa when he noted that the local inhabitants collected the berry from shrubs or small trees there and chewed them before taking their regular meals.
The miracle fruit, as the name suggests, has various therapeutic features. While the berry-line fruits are consumed fresh when ripened, people in Africa, where the plant is native, also employ these fruits to augment the flavour of bland tasting foods. Currently, studies are on to explore the use of the fruits as a potential natural food sweetener.
Miracle fruit serves in the form of an artificial sweetener. In fact, it helps by reducing the calories that are gained from sugar consumption. Therefore, eating this fruit helps to take in fewer calories and protect you from various health conditions.
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People in Western Africa and the Antilles macerate the fruit pulp in water and consume it in the form of a cooling, febrifuge and depurative agent. In addition, they also apply the fruit pulp topically to cure headaches and burn injuries. Similarly, in Panama, where the fruit is known as totumo, people use the miracle fruit for curing stomach aches and diarrhea.
Moreover, the miracle fruit is also used for treating a host of health conditions including toothaches, respiratory problems, colds, cough and bronchitis. It is also effective for curing headaches, and irregular menstruation cycles. The miracle fruit is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent, laxative and febrifuge. The leaves of this herb are used to treat high blood pressure.
It has been found that chemotherapy as well as anti-neurotic drugs often have an adverse effect on the receptors on people's tongue. As a result, many people lose their taste sense. On several occasions, cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy sense a metallic taste and also deteriorating health as they are unable to enjoy the flavour of their food. In such cases, miracle fruit works to conceal this negative effect on the receptors on the tongue and eliminates all disagreeable senses that one may experience.
Miracle fruit possesses the ability to significantly augment the flavours of a few selective vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, lemon, pineapple, spinach, lettuce, strawberries and grapefruit. Consuming miracle fruit will help to taste all these fruits and vegetables more appealing. In fact, this actually rouses an individual who earlier hated consuming these vegetables and fruits before to eat them more. In fact, it is some sort of a miracle itself.
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Currently, several physicians are exploring the ability of miracle fruit to enhance appetite in specific patients, for instance those undergoing chemotherapy or taking anti-neurotic drugs.
While the miracle fruit also improves the taste, it will never conceal the flavour or essence of any food or cuisine. In fact, people consuming hot, spicy and sour foods will find them tasting sweet.
It is almost impossible for a diabetic patient to take a regular normal diet, as they need to reduce their carbohydrate and sugar intakes with a view to ensure that the glucose balance in their blood stream is correct. Therefore, such people can consume this fruit before taking their regular meals so that they can take delight in their meal.
The miracle fruit plant succeeds best when it is grown in a place having partial shade. The small plants are susceptible to harm due to frost and, hence, they ought to be grown in containers so that they can be moved indoors or any other protected locations when there is a threat of frost or temperatures dropping below freezing point.
However, older miracle fruit plants may be able to endure frosts and retain some of their leaves, while there may be some trivial damages to their twigs. Once they are somewhat grown up, the plants may endure cooler temperatures and not be killed due to frosts. However, these plants are not considered to be frost-resistant. It has been observed that Synsepalum dulcificum plants are being grown in windy sites in Florida.
Miracle fruit plants are propagated from their seeds. While sowing the seeds, ensure that you do so in a well-drained, rich soil and cover them just barely. Water the seeds lightly every second day. Generally, the seeds will germinate in roughly eight to ten weeks time from the day of sowing, but their growth will be somewhat sluggish during the first year. In fact, the seedlings will just be about two to three inches at the end of their first year's growth. These plants will take anything between three to four years of growth to attain a height over 15 inches to 20 inches. Following this, their growth will be rapid.
However, there is a word of caution. While growing this plant from its seeds, you need to be ready to wait for some years until you are able to take delight in the first fruit. Preferably, it is advised that you obtain a mature full specimen of the plant which is no less than one feet in height and which is all set to bloom. This will make your task easier.
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