Apr 2008

Vegetation Profile: Gac Fruit

small gac

Momordica cochinchinensis (Lour.) Spreng., commonly known as gac (IPA: /ˈgæk/, from Vietnamese: gấc, or quả gấc [quả meaning “fruit”]; in Chinese: 木鳖果), is a Southeast Asian fruit found throughout the region from Southern China to Northeastern Australia. It is also known as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, Sweet Gourd, or Cochinchin Gourd. It has been traditionally used as both food and medicine in the regions in which it grows.

Because it has a relatively short harvest season (which peaks in December and January), making it less abundant than other foods, gac is typically served at ceremonial or festive occasions in Vietnam, such as Tết (the Vietnamese new year) and weddings. It is most commonly prepared as a dish called xôi gấc, in which the aril and seeds of the fruit are cooked in glutinous rice, imparting both their color and flavor.

Other than the use of its fruit and leaves for special Vietnamese culinary dishes, gac is also used for its medicinal and nutritional properties. In Vietnam, the seed membranes are used to aid in the relief of dry eyes, as well as to promote healthy vision. Similarly, in Traditional Chinese medicine the seeds of gac, known as mubiezi (Chinese: 木鳖子), are employed for a variety of internal and external purposes.

While I can’t vouch for the medicinal prowess of gac fruit, I can attest for its brilliant dying properties, especially in the form of Xôi Gấc. I’m a little afraid of staining my fingers and clothes, but  one of these days I must purchase a gac fruit to taste in its purist form.

With the exception of xoi, I have very little experience with guc fruit. Dear readers, how do YOU (or your mama and grandma) eat and use guc fruit? I am very curious…

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18 thoughts on “Vegetation Profile: Gac Fruit

  1. Raw ripe gac is a bit sweet but definitely NOT tasty. I guess this kind of fruit is not supposed to be eaten raw. Xoi gac is the way to go.

  2. The thin skin that cover gac seed is a delicacy but it can be found in home-made xoi gac only. As gac is relatively expensive, street vendors usually substitute it with food colouring.

  3. Xoi gac is the only thing I know that gac can be used to make. I have never seen or heard of eating gac raw or any other way. Fake xoi gac made with food coloring is just not as tasty as the real deal.

  4. I’m so glad to see a post about gac! We saw it at the Ben Thanh market and were taken by its spiky orangeness. I can’t say “spiny bitter gourd” sounds all that delicious, so I’m definitely interested to read about what happens when you get your hands on a fresh one.

  5. Alright! I guess it’s unanimous – I’m gonna go buy a gac fruit and make REAL xoi gac! Woot. Now I must go find suitable recipe. I wish I had Into the Vietnamese Kitchen on me… Will keep you posted.

  6. Good timing, I’m off to Montreal to visit my aunt who’s a superb cook and almost definitively will know how to make real xio gac. I’ll try and remember to ask!

  7. Love Guc!! It was our header picture for the longest time before we changed it on a monthly basis. But there still is one of me blowing into one!
    My family uses it primarily for xoi guc. My dad loves it, but does admit that there really isn’t much flavor at all to it. The allure is in the color and uniqueness of the fruit.
    I’ve gotten my hands on about 5 of them this year and made xoi and that’s pretty much it. The flavor is pretty much like a cucumber, being that it’s in the same family. It’s neither sweet to flavorful to me, just kinda rawish like a cucumber.
    I saved the seeds and will be attempting to grow it this year. We’ll see how it grows!

  8. WoR – Must. Make. Xoi. Gac. Any chance you’d like to share your recipe? Am also excited to taste if guc is anything like cucumber…

  9. If you want to try the best benefit of GAC, go to http://www.stpaulbrands.com . I use Red GAC softgel everyday for the benefit of Lycopene and Betacaroten. I also use the Red GAC serum and the result is incredible. I see the result within 1 week !!! My skin become so smooth and the wrinkles are gone !!! Try it for yourself.

  10. This vegetable has extraordinary lycopene content, up to 70x higher than tomatos for example. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to reduce many types of cancers. Also 10x more beta carotene than carrots.

    Search the net for the latin name Momordica cochinchinensis

  11. I would like to tell you, that is among the most powerful superfoods, like Acai, goji, Noni, fucidan, Mangosteen and Seabuckthorn. These are the best anti-oxidants in the world. Now, Idrink the juice together in the same bottle. Very, exciting!!!

  12. Gac has some fat content, so the xoi gac looks a little bit oily and tastes rich. Fake xoi gac does not have that particular taste.

  13. I got a hold of 4 Gac seeds from one of our scientists and decided to try and grow them in Florida. All 4 seeds sprouted and grew to vines over 8 feet long within 6 months. I just noticed some of the leaves have formed hollow spheres and I wonder if this is the beginning formation of the fruit. I was looking forward to eating Gac for it’s health benefits, but didn’t realize how awful eating it sounds. I think I’ll just mix the endocarp into a smoothie or something.

  14. “its beta carotene content is around ten times that of carrots, and it contains 70 times the lycopene of tomatoes! Vitamin C is another very powerful antioxidant, and gac contains 60 times the Vitamin C of oranges”.
    “Lycopene may also improve longevity in women. In a study examining plasma lycopene and longevity in nuns, lycopene and other carotenoids were measured in 94 participants, ages 77 to 99 years, living in the same convent. After six years of follow-up, only 13% of those with low plasma lycopene were still alive, while 48% of those with moderate lycopene and 70% of those with high lycopene were living (P=0.0001). Life table analyses indicated an 11-year difference in life expectancy between those with low and high plasma lycopene”.


    (in Vietnamese and English)

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