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Thaumatococcus daniellii

Botanical Name: Thaumatococcus daniellii
Family:    Marantaceae
Genus:    Thaumatococcus
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order: Zingiberales

Synonyms:  Phrynium daniellii

Common names: Miracle fruit (but the unrelated species Synsepalum dulcificum is better known by that name) and miracle berry, Katamfe or Katempfe, Yoruba soft cane, and African serendipity berry.

Habitat: Thaumatococcus daniellii  is  native to the rainforests of western Africa from Sierra Leone to Zaire. It is also an introduced species in Australia and Singapore.

Description:
Thaumatococcus daniellii is a rhizomatous, perennial herb, up to 3-3.5 m high.  It  has large, papery leaves up to 46 centimeters long and 40 cm wide, arise singly from each node of the rhizome. Inflorescences are single or simply branched spikes’ and emerge from the lowest node.  It bears pale purple flowers and a soft fruit containing a few shiny black seeds. In its native range,the fruit is fleshy, trigonal in shape and matures to a dark red/brown colour when fully ripe. At maturity each fruit contains three black, extremely hard seeds. The seeds are enveloped by a sticky thin, pale yellow basal aril, which contains the sweetening protein, thaumatin.
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Varieties:
Thaumatococcus daniellii var. daniellii – western + central Africa from Sierra Leone to Zaire
Thaumatococcus daniellii var. puberulifolius Dhetchuvi & Diafouka – central Africa (Zaire, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Central African Republic)

Edible Uses:
Fruit: The most popular use of T. daniellii is as sweetener. The aril contains a non-toxic, intensely sweet protein named thaumatin, which is at least 3000 times as sweet as sucrose. In West Africa, the aril is traditionally used for sweetening bread, over-fermented palm-wine and sour food. When the seeds are chewed, for up to an hour afterwards they cause sour materials eaten or drunk to taste very sweet. Since the mid-1990s, thaumatin is used as sweetener and flavour enhancer by the food and confectionary industry. Substituting synthetic sweeteners, it is used as a non-caloric natural sweetener. Thaumatin is not a carbohydrate thus it is an ideal sweetener for diabetics.

The seeds of T. daniellii also produce a jelly that swells to 10 times its own weight and hence provides a substitute for agar.

Medicinal Uses:
Thaumatococcus  daniellii is also used in traditional medicinal uses in the Ivory Coast and Congo. The fruit is used as a laxative and the seed as an emetic and for pulmonary problems.
In traditional medicinal use the leaf sap is used as antidote against venoms, stings and bites. Leaf and root sap are used as sedative and for treating insanity.

Other Uses:
In West Africa, T. daniellii is mostly cultivated for the leaves. The lamina of the leaves is used for wrapping foods. The petiole is used to weave mats and as tools and building materials. The entire leaf is also used for roofing.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaumatococcus_daniellii

Synsepalum dulcificum

Botanical Name: Synsepalum dulcificum
Family: Sapotaceae
Genus: Synsepalum
Species: S. dulcificum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales

Common Names:  Miracle fruit, Miracle berry, Miraculous berry, Sweet berry, and in West Africa, where the species originates, Agbayun, Taami, Asaa, and Ledidi.

Habitat: Synsepalum dulcificum is native to West Africa. When European explorer the Chevalier des Marchais provided an account of its use there. Marchais, who was searching West Africa for many different fruits in a 1725 excursion, noticed that local people picked the berry from shrubs and chewed it before meals.
Description:
Synsepalum dulcificum is a shrub that grows between 6 to 15 feet in height and has dense foliage. Its leaves are 5–10 cm long, 2-3.7 cm wide and glabrous below. They are clustered at the ends of the branchlets. The flowers are brown. It carries red, 2 cm long fruits. Each fruit contains one seed……..CLICK & SEE
The fruit or the berry when eaten, causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet. This effect is due to miraculin.

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. 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).

The names miracle fruit and miracle berry are shared by Gymnema sylvestre and Thaumatococcus daniellii, which are two other species of plant used to alter the perceived sweetness of foods.
Cultivation:
The plant grows best in soils with a pH as low as 4.5 to 5.8, in an environment free from frost and in partial shade with high humidity. It is tolerant of drought, full sunshine and slopes.[4]
The seeds need 14 to 21 days to germinate. A spacing of 4 m between plants is suggested.
The plants first bear fruit after growing for approximately 3–4 years, and produce two crops per year, after the end of the rainy season. This evergreen plant produces small, red berries, while white flowers are produced for many months of the year.The seeds are about the size of coffee beans.In Africa, leaves are attacked by lepidopterous larvae, and fruits are infested with larvae of fruit-flies. The fungus Rigidoporus microporus has been found on this plant. Miraculin is now being produced by transgenic tomato plants.

Edible Uses:
In tropical West Africa, where this species originates, the fruit pulp is used to sweeten palm wine. Historically, it was also used to improve the flavor of soured cornbread.The Miracle berry has a very unusual effect when the fruit is absorbed over the tongue. It makes food and drinks which normally taste sour or bitter, taste sweet. The sweet taste is similar to that of artificial sweeteners. If you chew the fruit, and then eat a lemon, it will not taste sour at all, it actually tastes like lemonade. Sour2Sweet.com is our preferred Miracle Fruit vendor

Medicinal Uses:
Attempts have been made to create a commercial sweetener from the fruit, with an idea of developing this for patients with diabetes. Fruit cultivators also report a small demand from cancer patients, because the fruit allegedly counteracts a metallic taste in the mouth that may be one of the many side effects of chemotherapy. This claim has not been researched scientifically, though in late 2008, an oncologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, Florida, began a study, and by March 2009, had filed an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In Japan, miracle fruit is popular among patients with diabetes and dieters.

The shelf life of the fresh fruit is only 2–3 days. Because miraculin is denatured by heating, the pulp must be preserved without heating for commercial use. Freeze-dried pulp is available in granules or in tablets, and has a shelf life of 10 to 18 months.

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Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synsepalum_dulcificum
http://www.synsepalumdulcificum.net/