Gac fruits is the size of a small melon and grows on climbing vines than can reach 6 meters long. They are often found growing on lattices or arbors in gardens and rural homes throughout Vietnam. The fruits first appear green, but later ripen to a dark orange color and have a rounded oblong shape approximately 13 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter. The coarse rind has a spiny exterior that covers a layer of light orange spongy flesh called the mesocarp, which is usually discarded. The inner core is packed with edible, magenta-red oily sacs that are very mild in taste. They have a moderate sweetness some may compare to the fresh fruitiness of a cucumber or melon with a hint of carrot.
Gac fruit is available for a few months in the fall.
Gac Fruit, or simply Gac as it is referred to in Southeast Asia, is a tropical vine that is botanically classified as Momordica cochinchinensis. It is also commonly known as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, Sweet Gourd or Cochinchin Gourd. It has an extremely short season, a mere two months long, but the fruit plays an important role in celebratory dishes as well as in natural medicine. Until recently, Gac has been a mystery outside of its native lands, but the juice has since been marketed as a dietary supplement because of its allegedly high phytonutrient content.
Gac has an especially high lycopene content, containing up to 70 times the amount of lycopene found in tomatoes. It also has 10 times the amount of beta-carotene found in carrots or sweet potatoes. In Vietnam, the seed membranes are used to aid in eye health.
The juicy inner pulp of the Gac may be eaten raw on its own or blended with other fruits to make a juice. It is most commonly cooked with sticky rice in a dish called Xoi Gac, in which the fruit’s deep red color and mildly fruity flavor is extracted. The young shoots of the vines are also eaten as a vegetable, simply steamed and paired with nam phrik (chili-based Thai condiment). An unconventional yet delicious way to enjoy the health benefits of Gac is to combine it with tomato sauce and use on a pizza or with pasta.