In a study published this week, researchers at University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center have unlocked the mystery behind a highly sought-after berry known as the Miracle fruit.
The Miracle Fruit is known for its abilities to serve as a non-caloric sweetener and change the perception of foods and beverages from sour to sweet. However, insufficient information has kept domestic growers and manufacturers in the dark about its strength and potential for a profitable industry until now.
The fruit, which grows natively in Africa and has been consumed for more than a century in that continent for its ability to add sweetness to the blandest and most sour of foods, has a fruit pulp that contains a protein called miraculin. The protein is a taste-modifier, one of only a handful of such naturally occurring molecules in the world that is found in the berries of the plant known colloquially as the miracle fruit.
For the first time, UF/IFAS researchers uncovered key information about the plant’s varieties and their potential for the berry’s potency. Critical to the findings are the varieties identified with the greatest potential for fruit-bearing with the highest potency of the protein and its ability to harvest more efficiently and most often in climates like Africa. The equivalent of those climates are South Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Alan Chambers, the lead researcher, author of the study and a tropical plant geneticist at the Homestead research facility of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences: “We now have foundational data on yield and of the concentration of the miraculin protein in the berry. The berry, similar in size to a raspberry, is primarily valued for its miraculin content, but what this study did for the first time, is quantify the miraculin in the fruit of select varieties.”