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 (木鳖果) in Chinese, and variously as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, Sweet Gourd, or Cochinchin Gourd in English.
Characteristics 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 colour and flavour. More recently, the fruit has begun to be marketed outside of Asia in the form of juice dietary supplements because of its allegedly high phytonutrient content.
Growth Gac 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 colour 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.
Traditionally, gac has been used as both food and medicine in the regions in which it grows. 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 said to aid in the relief of dry eyes, as well as to promote healthy vision