Gac is a fruit new to the United States but has been in existence for centuries in South East Asia. The scientific name is Momordica Cochinchinnesis Spreng. It is botanically classified as family cucurbitaeceae. It is not an eating fruit but a fruit vegetable that must be cooked to render it edible. The Vietnamese calls it Day Gac, In India it is known as Bhat Kerala, the Thai ‘s calls it Fak Kao.
The fruit is oblong or round and becomes reddish orange when ripe. Unlike bitter gourd (momordica charantia), the rind of the gac is hard and covered with conical points, about 1″ high. Gac is produced by a rampant vine that is grown in trellis as an ornamental plant in South East Asia. The fruit is harvested when ripe and when the skin turns orangey red. Harvesting is only once a year and between August and February. During special occassions, such as weddings and new year, the edible seed, seed membrane and oil of the ripe fruit is added to rice to impart a red color. Perhaps because red signifies good luck and white is is regarded as a sign of death. This red rice is called Xoi gac in Vietnamese. While gac is indigenous to South East Asia, there is no cookbook written that uses gac as an ingredient other than for making red rice (xoi gac) . Gac is mostly used for medicinal purposes, for the treatment of dry eyes,night blindness, applied to open wounds as a poultice to stimulate wound closure and development of new skin.
The interest on the fruit came about because of the efforts of Thuy-Le Vuong, PHD who wrote a paper on Gac in 1998 for her Doctoral Dessertation at UC Davis,California. In her paper, she compared b- carotene content of Gac with summer and winter fruits and vegetables in Vietnam. She found out that in the ripe GAc fruit, b-carotene is the dominant carotenoid with concentration as high as 35,500 mg/100g. In addition to b-carotene,lycopense was the only carotenoid present in quantifiable amounts. In addition to carotene, gac pulp also contain significant amount of oil. Fatty acid analysis indicate that gac contains 10,198 mg per 100 gram edible portion. Of the total fatty acid of the gac pulp,70% are unsaturated,50% of these are polyunsaturated. 2 major fatty acid present in gac pulp is linoeleic, about 3,206 mg per 100 gram edible portion and alpha linoleic acid at 215 mg per 100 gram edible portion.Both fatty acids are polyunsaturated.
Chronic vitamin A deficiency continue to be one of the most resistant nutritional problems in developing countries. In 1985 the prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency disorders(VADD) in school age children in Vietnam exceeded WHO’s (World Health Organization) cut off point criterion for public health problem that VADD in Vietnam received international attention. This is inspite of the fact that Vitamin A deficiency is not difficult to identify,the causes are well understood,treatments are available and vitamin A sources are plentiful.
Awareness of the prescense of Gac and its nutrient content is only known to a few scientist. In Vietnam, Gac is now being grown and processed commercially in the Red River Delta Areas to meet Global demands . It can be found sold on line in the form of a beverage G3 ,in soft gel as a vitamin supplement and also in powdered form. Gac is the worlds concentrated source of beta carotent and lycopene.