The gac fruit is highly esteemed in Southeast Asia for its brilliant red color and exceptional nutritional benefits. With an impressive supply of antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin C, it has been extensively employed in culinary and medicinal practices, primarily in Vietnam and neighboring nations.
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What is a Gac?
Gac fruit (Momordica cochinchinensis) originates from Southeast Asia, with Vietnam being a particularly notable location. It is also called baby jackfruit, sweet gourd, Cochinchin gourd, or spiny bitter gourd. The fruit is also grown in other regions, including China, Australia, the Philippines, and Florida.
Gac is recognized and celebrated for its unique aesthetic, showcasing a large round or oblong shape encased in spiky skin. Its striking hue makes it popular during traditional ceremonies and festivities for ornamental purposes.
Gac’s flavor is typically considered to be fairly bland and neutral. The fruit has a rich nutritional content and prospective health advantages, lending to its frequent appearance in both herbal remedies and traditional dishes.
The Chinese use gac fruit arils in traditional medicine to cure eye issues, burns, and skin issues. Gac seeds, also called wooden turtle seeds, are also used in traditional medicine.
The History of Gacs
The Gac fruit is indigenous to Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam and Thailand. This dynamic and vivid red fruit carries significant cultural implications in these territories, frequently observed in traditional festivals and ceremonies.
In Vietnamese culture, this superfood represents longevity, luck, and fertility and plays a significant role in new year festivities and weddings. Its distinct shape and bright color make it an aesthetically pleasing addition to decoration arrangements.
The gac fruit has also gained worldwide recognition because it possesses high nutritional value and prospective health benefits. Because of this, it’s finding its way into culinary explorations globally and in international trade.
What Does a Gac Taste Like?
In its raw state, it possesses a bland, neutral flavor. When cooked, it becomes somewhat salty or spicy with a rich, mild taste.
How to Tell When Gacs Are Ripe
|Once ripe, its color shifts from green to a vivid red or orange-red tint with uniformity throughout its surface.
|The Gac fruit features a coarse and prickly external layer in its unripe state. As the fruit matures, the skin gradually softens and attains a smooth texture.
|Once the Gac fruit has reached full maturity, it exudes a unique fragrance often similar to that of pumpkin or squash.
|A mature Gac fruit should respond to delicate pressure with a slight give without an excessively rigid or unyielding texture.
When choosing a gac fruit, examine its color to ensure ripeness. Vibrant orange-red hues indicate maturity, whereas dull or greenish tones should be avoided. Test its firmness to verify it is not too hard or too soft. A ripe gac fruit should feature an undamaged stem and be free of noticeable blemishes or bruises.
Are Gac and Jackfruit Related?
Although commonly called “baby jackfruit,” Gacs and jackfruits are not closely related. Gacs are rounded fruits with vibrant red flesh and a slight sweetness, mainly cultivated in Southeast Asia.
By contrast, jackfruits are noticeably larger and possess a distinctly sweet taste, commonly grown in tropical areas. Both fruits exhibit unique qualities but differ considerably in taste, size, and growth environments.
Can I Eat Raw Gac Fruit?
Raw Gac fruit is edible only when ripe and can be incorporated into various culinary preparations. It is a decorative garnish or a delightful addition to smoothies, soups, and salads.
Cooking with Gac
Before cooking with gac, it is essential to prepare the fruit properly.
- Wear gloves and thoroughly wash the fruit and slice it in half.
- Scoop the blood-red flesh plus the seeds using a spoon.
- Discard the outer skin and enjoy!
Gac is a fruit with versatile culinary applications that span traditional Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. It is frequently used in Vietnamese cuisine desserts, savory dishes, and celebratory feasts. Thai cuisine often features it in stir-fries and curries.
Here are a few dishes that incorporate gac.
Vietnamese Gac Sticky Rice (Xôi Gấc): This Vietnamese dish combines Gac fruit with glutinous rice, creating a stunning red dish. It is often served during special occasions and celebrations.
Kaeng Som: Kaeng Som is a sour and spicy Thai curry, and sometimes Gac fruit is added to enhance the flavor and color of the dish. The fruit adds a slightly sweet note to the tangy and spicy curry. While Gac is not essential, it can be a unique addition.
Gac Fruit Sticky Rice Cakes: This rice dish combines Gac fruit with coconut oil, sugar, salt, rice, honey, shredded coconut, vanilla, and coconut creme.
How to Store Gac Fruits
Various techniques can be utilized to prolong the shelf life of Gac fruits. On the counter, keep the fruits in a well-ventilated and cool area, away from direct sunlight. Gac fruits can last for approximately 3-4 days at room temperature.
For extended storage, refrigeration should be considered. It is recommended to place the fruits in a perforated bag before storing them in the refrigerator. This method can help retain the freshness of Gac fruits for two weeks.
Freezing is another viable option to increase their shelf life. To do this, the fruit should be cut into small pieces while removing the seeds. Once done, put them in airtight containers and freeze them. Frozen Gac fruit can last for six months.
Lastly, drying Gac fruits is also considered an effective preservation method. Cut the fruit into slices, place them on a tray, and dry them in an oven at a low temperature. Dried Gac fruits can last for one year.
Nutritional Benefits of Gacs
Gacs possess a highly nutritious composition characterized by abundant antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. These fruits particularly stand out for their high concentration of carotenoids, such as lycopene, lutein, and beta-carotene. They are favorable for maintaining eye health and possibly mitigating certain cancers.
Additionally, Gacs are a rich source of vitamin C, which facilitates collagen production and immune function. Furthermore, their fibrous content supports digestive wellness while potentially reducing cholesterol levels.
Where to Purchase Gacs
The Gac fruit is available at specialty stores that specialize in Asian ingredients or farmers’ markets in nations like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The availability of this seasonal fruit is limited to late summer to early winter, with peak harvest taking place from September to November.