Synsepalum dulcificum – Miracle fruit (plant)
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Synsepalum dulcificum is a member of the Sapotaceae family, native to parts of West Africa. An evergreen shrub that flushes with sweetly smelling small flowers followed by small capsule-sized red berries in summer/autumn. The fruit contains a small amount of sweet flesh surrounding a larger inedible seed.
The berry itself has a low sugar content and a mildly sweet tang. It contains a glycoprotein molecule, with some trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin. When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this molecule binds to the tongue’s taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. Miraculin works by binding to sweet receptors on the taste buds. At neutral pH, miraculin binds and blocks the receptors, but at low pH (resulting from ingestion of sour foods) miraculin binds protons and becomes able to activate the sweet receptors, resulting in the perception of sweet taste. This effect lasts until the protein is washed away by saliva (up to about 60 minutes). Info at Wikipedia.
Care and Cultivation of Synsepalum dulcificum
Synsepalum dulcificum likes rich and moist soil in a part sun to shade position. Prefers a slightly more acidic soil pH. Despite being described as a tropical fruit, it does well in our sub-tropical garden and can stand low air temperatures in the colder months(0ºC), when planted in a protected area and is established. Bring inside over the colder months in areas south of about Port Macquarie on the NSW mid north coast.