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Momordica cochinchinensis
Momordica cochinchinensis
Momordica cochinchinensis

Momordica cochinchinensis

In Detail

Momordica cochinchinensis is a Southeast Asian fruit found throughout the region from Southern China to Northeastern Australia, including Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Etymology

It is commonly known as gac from the Vietnamese gấc (pronounced [ɣək˦˥]) or quả gấc (quả being a classifier for spherical objects such as fruit). It is known as mùbiēguǒ in Chinese and variously as red melon, baby jackfruit, spiny bitter gourd or cochinchin gourd in English. In Thai, it is pronounced fahk khao and taw thabu in Myanmar.

Characteristics

Momordica sp Blanco2.380.png
 

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 thearil and seeds of the fruit are cooked in glutinous rice, imparting both their color and flavor. More recently, the fruit has begun to be marketed outside of Asia in the form of juice dietary supplements because of its highphytonutrient content.

Growth

Gac or Red Melon, grows on dioecious vines and is usually collected from fence climbers or from wild plants. The vines can be commonly seen growing on lattices at the entrances to rural homes or in gardens. It only fruits once a year, and is found seasonally in local markets. The fruit itself becomes a dark orange color upon ripening, and is typically round or oblong, maturing to a size of about 13 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter. Its exterior skin is covered in small spines while its dark red interior consists of clusters of fleshy pulp and seeds.

Nutrients and phytochemicals

Typical of orange-colored plant foods, gac fruit contains carotenoids such as beta-carotene (provitamin A). Vietnamese children fed a rice dish containing beta-carotene from gac had higher blood levels of beta-carotene than those in the control group. Gac aril oil contains high levels of vitamin E. Fatty acids in the aril oil may facilitate absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, including carotenoids.

Due to its high content of beta-carotene and lycopene, gac extracts may be sold as a food supplement in soft capsules or included in a juice blend. Gac contains substantial lycopene, beta-carotene and a protein that may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. Twocyclotides isolated, MCoT-I and MCoT-II, may have properties to inhibit trypsin.

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