You don't have to look very far in the tropical garden to find things you'd never imagine. Here are two "miracle" plants with very different claims to fame. The “Miracle Tree” is an excellent example of how little we are aware of alternative sustainable food sources. The properties of Moringa oleifera, and the entire Moringa genus, are astounding.
Every part of this tree is edible, and weight for weight it has more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more potassium than bananas, more iron than spinach, and more protein and calcium than milk!
The leaves are the most widely consumed part, especially popular in the Philippines, where they are often treated like spinach and used in soups. However, all of it can be eaten, and supposedly tastes delicious—the flowers like mushrooms and the seedpods like asparagus when cooked! It can even be processed into an olive oil alternative!
The photo to the left is a young Moringa oleifera planted on the top of our terraces. This will make it easier to top and harvest. This is already three times the size it was when we planted it five months ago! Below on the right is a close up of the elegant foliage.
These trees may grow quickly, but they only live 10 years at the most. Below you can see an older specimen we let grow much larger (See the slender base next to the yellow arrow? Now follow that up to the tuft of foliage 20 feet above!).
Nevertheless, this specimen is less than a year old and was about 18 inches tall when we planted it last July! Below that is an okay photo of it's flower. Fruit has not set yet. Check out this nursery in California for more information, or to get your own seeds.
If you continue to scroll down, you will see two photos of the "Miracle Berry" shrub. Synsepalum dulcificum is part of the Sapotaceae family, home to other curious plants with useful fruits or chemicals, like various sapote fruits (where Chiclet gum originally came from!) and Shea Butter.
The Miracle Berry has a chemical called miraculin in it, which blocks the sour and bitter taste bud receptors on your tongue. After eating this tiny berry, the most sour lemon will taste like pre-sweetened lemonade. Anything tart is suddenly bursting with phantom sugars. This sensation can last up to an hour!
This shrub grows very slowly and likes tropical, warm climates with fast draining soil. If you're lucky and happen to visit on a day these berries are ripe, you're likely to experience this miracle taste sensation yourself!
Moringa oleifera flower
Miracle berry shrub above and ripe berry below.