A member of the melon family and about the size of a cantaloupe,Gac grows on a perennial vine and is frequently cultivated in home gardens on lattices and amongst the branches of trees.Easy to grow,Gac is available during the summer months when the fruit turns bright red and the seeds have hardened. Often referred to as the “fruit from heaven” studies on Gac have found it to be amongst the most nutrient-dense fruits known making it prized for its ability to promote longevity, vitality, and health.
Common Name: Gac Fruit
Botanical Name: Momordica cochinchinensis Spreng
Other names: Baby Jackfruit, Cochinchin Gourd, Sweet Gourd or Spiny Bitter Gourd, Bhat Kerala (India), MocNietTu (China), Mac Kao (Laos)
Growing Area: Southern Asia
Nutrients & Applications:
Gac is an exceptional source of lycopene and beta-carotene. It has up to 70 times more lycopene than tomatoes, 10 times more beta-carotene than carrots, 60 times more vitamin C than oranges and 40 times more zeaxanthin than yellow corn. It also contains alpha-tocopherol, vitamin F, and minerals including iron and zinc.Aril, the red, oily pulp surrounding the seeds, is an exceptional source of long-chain fatty acids, which help to make the nutrients in Gac readily bioavailable.
It’s not hard to see why much of the health benefits of Gac come from its potent antioxidant properties.The lycopene in Gac helps prevent prostate cancer,atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease while the beta-carotene from Gac is a good source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids which promote a healthy immune system. Gac’s zeaxanthin protects the eyes by absorbing damaging blue light, facilitates better vision in dim light or where glare is a problem and helps to prevent age-related macular degeneration. The Vietnamese people use Gac seed membranes to help relieve dry eyes and promote healthy vision while the seeds are traditionally used to make a tonic for good health.
The alpha-tocopherolfound in Gac protects cells from damaging free radicals, boosts immune system function, helps the body make new red blood cells, and widens blood vessels, which potentially lowers the risk of developing blood clots. Gac’s antioxidants, particularly beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol, help keep skin healthy. While the fruit is also frequently used as a traditional remedy for arthritis, recent research suggests that Gac contains a protein that may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells.
In Thailand, the immature fruit is used as a vegetable by mixing it with chili paste and cooking it in a curry. In northern Vietnam, Gac fruits are mainly used in making a rice dish called xoigac. Traditionally, the red oily pulp is cooked with rice and served during special festivities such as weddings. The bright red colour of this dish represents good luck and joy.