ó Her water tasted like rusty pennies; the pepperoni pizza
like metallic cardboard.
chemotherapy sessions Monica Faison-Finch got, the faster her
taste buds gave out. Over time she became thinner and thinner
as her appetite diminished. Everything that touched her tongue
then, a miracle happened.
I tried the miracle fruit before my meal, my life
changed," said Faison-Finch, who was being treated for
cervical cancer. "It was like the first time I had tasted
food in about five or six weeks. It was like I was having my
fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), which grows on a small emerald
tree, is a red berry native to Ghana. People have known for
centuries that eating the tiny tropical fruit, the size of a
large jelly bean, affects the way food tastes. Scientists say
the fruit binds the taste receptors on the tongue. After
eating just one berry, the flavors of the food a person eats
within the next hour are greatly enhanced.
taste like lemonade, strawberries as if they were on steroids.
brothers Erik and Kris Tietig, owners of the Miracle Fruit
Farm in Redland in South Dade, have donated hundreds of
thousands of dollars worth of miracle fruit to cancer patients
at local hospitals, charity organizations and research
universities since 1972.
decades, as the fruit became more popular, more people began
to request it and the orders became too voluminous to handle.
Thatís when the brothers, who grew up on their parentsí
farm, Pine Island Nursery, built a separate farm to cultivate,
sell and donate the fruit in larger quantities.
are called and visited by people in one of the hardest times
of their life," said Erik Tietig, 40. "When weíre
able to help them with the miracle fruit, mask that metallic
sensation and actually enjoy a meal, itís really a small
fruit itself doesnít have much nutritional value. Itís the
unique glycoprotein called miraculin that conceals undesirable
flavors and intensifies the natural flavors of the food.
of the most common complaints nowadays with our patients is
the very strong, metallic taste that occurs in the mouth of
the patients undergoing treatments," said Dr. Mike Cusnir,
director of medicine at the Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer
Center in Miami Beach.
said one of his patients introduced him to the fruit in his
office. He said he was shocked that researchers were not doing
much with the revelation that the fruit can improve taste,
which"has been such a common complaint of our patients
losing a family member to cancer a few years ago, the Tietigs
were determined to help people battling the illness. They came
face to face with the reality that patients often suffer
extreme nausea and aversion to eating and as a result,
struggle with unwanted weight loss.
fruit is not a fad. It doesnít cure cancer or even help
prevent cancer," Erik Tietig said. "But what it does
do is help alleviate terrible symptoms of chemotherapy in a
very real and a very immediate way."
the Tietig family had been donating miracle fruit from Pine
Island Nursery since 1972, the Miracle Fruit Farm didnít
come into existence until 2012.
knew we had it through word of mouth, but over the years, we
went from people calling in a dozen times a year to dozens
every day," Erik Tietig said.
sits in Redland, Miami-Dade Countyís agricultural district.
The Tietigs asked that the exact location not be disclosed.
The family farm grows, packs and ships the fruit four days a
week for both retail and wholesale customers. Right now, the
farm has about 7,000 trees, which live in a shade house. In
January, another 7,000 miracle fruit trees will be planted.
berries, which are in season year-round, are sold for 50 cents
to $1 each. The majority of the farmís production gets
fruit is available for purchase because itís the farmís
primary source of business and income," Erik Tietig said.
However, he said the farm consistently donates the fruit to
local hospitals, cancer centers and universities. This year,
recipients included the University of Florida, Miami Cancer
Institute and the Soroptimist of Homestead, an international
organization that aids women and girls in need. A few local
hospital systems have received hundreds of thousands of
dollars worth of fruit for their patients.
objective of cancer care is to add life to the years more than
years to the life," Cusnir said. "Anything we can do
to keep the quality of life to the patient, so that we can
keep the patient on the treatment by itself, itís going to
be beneficial, and it becomes a win-win situation."
hasnít been that easy.
the fruit is difficult to harvest, it took the brothers years
to discover how to produce the fruit in large quantities
fruit itself goes bad anywhere from one to three days after
being picked off the tree. Most farmers had shunned the berry,
because it has no commercial viability and is highly
perishable. Consequently, patients were having a tough time
finding it," Erik Tietig said.
donít realize how important a meal is until that
satisfaction is taken away from you. And the miracle fruit has
the ability to restore that. We were determined."
that they would make it possible, the brothers invested their
own money and built the miracle fruit farm themselves.
years of research and trial and error, the brothers found a
way to get the plant to mature quicker, a process they are
learned that we can grow them from cuttings," Tietig
said. "We developed ways to clone them without altering
its DNA and then grow them in a controlled environment."
last six months, the brothers even rolled out miracle fruit
tablets, designed to have a longer shelf life than the fruit.
success in bringing the fruit to South Florida has broken
barriers. Cancer patients swear by the fruit, saying it has
brought new life during their toughest times.
was able to tolerate the smell of food again; her husband didnít
have to cook outside. Lynne Guadamuz of Homestead said she was
able to drink water and get the nutrients she needed. Carol
Sheppo of Vero Beach said spaghetti and meatballs tasted like
they were supposed to taste ó like spaghetti and meatballs.
just opened up the whole flavor of food again, and life,"