Over the last year or so I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on marijuana forums. If any agency has been monitoring my internet browsing history, they would have completely the wrong idea about my habits. Ha! I’ve been on those weed forums trying to learn all I can about grow lights, humidity, managing temperature and introducing C02, all in an effort to grow the most frustrating plant on Earth….Synsepalum dulcificum, aka the Miracle Fruit or Miracle Berry.
I can grow pretty much anything, with a little care and research. I remember being 14-years-old & managing to sprout camomile from a Lipton teabag, on a styrofoam tray on my windowsill. This Miracle plant though, has been incredibly frustrating and slow going.
My husband & I read about these amazing berries that turn sour tasting food into sweet. I read articles like this one, about hip New Yorkers throwing taste tripping parties where friends would gather to eat the berries or tablets made from berry concentrate, and then eat lemons, grapefruit, sour apples and other bitter foods, which would then taste like sweet nectar! Things like Guinness or milk stout would taste like chocolate milk shake. This is due to a glycoprotein molecule called miraculin, which somehow affects the taste receptors on the tongue for about an hour, or until you drink some warm water to wash it out.
We wasted no time ordering some online (they never arrived), then tracking down a South African supplier who let me know that he provided the Miracle Frooties tablets to a few Spar supermarkets, including one not far from me in Elarduspark, Pretoria. When we had our housewarming almost a year ago, we had an awesome time with our friends and their kids taste tripping with Miracle Frooties.
They have a bland, slightly chalky taste themselves…they aren’t sweet at all. But the effect they have on what you eat or drink afterwards is…to quote Russel Peters, “Mind blasting!” Lemons tasted like the most syrupy oranges, tomatoes almost tasted like cherries & beer tasted like fizzy cold drinks! You can try vinegar with caution…it tastes like apple juice in your mouth but it will still burn like vinegar in your throat, hahah. I learnt the hard way.
In any event, after the party I decided to try growing the plants and harvesting the berries. It seemed like a fun project and an easy one from everything I read online. I got two 7-month-old plants online. They arrived healthy, with a little peat packed around the root balls. I was so relieved they weren’t bare root, because those freak me out. I provided the best soil I knew at the time (a less advanced version of my blueberry acid mix, which included garden soil…a mistake) and watered them with tap H2O plus vinegar.
The most informative Miracle Fruit forum seems to have died a quiet death some years ago, and isn’t accepting new users, so I couldn’t register and ask questions. They mentioned little greenhouses, or grow houses…grow lights, carbon dioxide supplementation, rainwater etc. That’s where the marijuana forums came in. I never registered but I spent many hours learning all I could about the set ups they had going. So I then switched tactics and placed the plant indoors in an old hex tank I had, to make a humid environment in a mini greenhouse. I ordered 4 more plants, determined to try again. I made a much better acid soil mix and repotted the one I had, and placed the new ones in it. I gave my friend’s mom one of them as well. I started feeding them with Nitrosol.
For about 3 beautiful weeks in spring time, the plants flourished, one even put out a basal shoot and another started branching. Things were going so well I planted one outside in the kitchen garden…so silly. Then it all went pear shaped…some sort of fungus took hold in the tank, so I cut off the affected leaves. Then the plants fried a bit, despite being indoors in a humid environment. The outside one got fried, then uprooted by my GSD girl. Right now, it they all look terrible. My plants look bad and I feel bad. They haven’t really grown taller or thicker stems, after those new leaves in spring. Some have managed to keep the new leaves they grew in spring, but it’s just not worth the time and expense I’ve put into the whole ordeal. They are nowhere near the size they should be to start producing flowers and fruit.
This might just be my first official plant failure. They are all alive, although slightly chlorotic (light coloured leaves with dark veins…usually a sign of low iron uptake when the pH isn’t right).
Way forward: I’m going to repot them all, one last time in my blueberry soil mix, fertilise with the Ammonium Sulphate and treat them with anti-fungal, anti-aphid stuff and just let them be. I think the blueberry growing has educated me quite a bit on caring for acid loving plants. I just need to figure something out with the humidity. If they fail…I don’t know. I thought of saving to buy a larger one with fruit already, or that is just about to make fruit, but the postal strike backlog & the high maintenance give me pause. I just want to grow my own berries. These trees get pretty big too. I live in hope.