Since 2008, the Shining Light Garden Foundation, a non-profit organization in Vero Beach, has been growing fresh vegetables to help feed the homeless, hungry, forgotten, and help to the healing. The garden began in Joel Bray’s backyard and through the generosity of others has grown to about 20 acres. The garden provides vegetables to food pantries, food kitchens, churches, and to homebound seniors and veterans. They recently added fruit trees and now have miracle fruit, also known as miracle berries.

Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is a berry on a small shrub native to Africa. The fruit contains a unique glycoprotein called miraculin that binds to taste receptors and alters the natural flavors of food; most notably, the ability to make sour food taste sweet. The effects of the miraculin have been shown to mask the overwhelming metallic taste of foods that people can get after chemotherapy that causes extreme nausea and can lead to patients developing an aversion to eating and unwanted weight loss. Miracle fruit is also used for medical purposes, such as changing the flavor of unpleasant medication.

The berries work when you put one in your mouth and gently scrape the fleshy part off the seed. Then swirl it around your mouth and over your tongue for about 2 minutes before swallowing or spitting it out. The effect of the miracle berry usually lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours and varies for different individuals. Always consult with your physician(s) and let them know you are using miracle berries. Potential side effects can cause some acidity if you eat too many sour foods. The fruit could also mask the heat of spicy food which could lead to heartburn or GI distress. Use berries in moderation, and be mindful of what types of food you are eating to avoid unnecessary problems.

For information on how to obtain miracle berries or schedule a group presentation call Greg Vafiades, (772) 532-8777. The garden provides fresh foods, fruits, and berries at no cost to those in need in Indian River County. They are always in need of more volunteers and donations. Visit the Shining Light Garden’s website at www.shininglightgardenfoundation.com.

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