Indigenous to Vietnam, gac fruit takes lesser known route to Noushad’s terrace in Kerala

Gac fruit is commonly used as a colorant in traditional dishes. The fruit is considered to have originated from southern China and spread from southeast Asia to northeastern Australia.
Noushad A K at his gac fruit farm in Thrikkunnapuzha, Alappuzha
Noushad A K at his gac fruit farm in Thrikkunnapuzha, Alappuzha Express

ALAPPUZHA : Thrikkunnapuzha resident Noushad A K went to Mangaluru to admit daughter Shifa to a nursing college in June 2023.

On the way, he noticed a strange, dark red fruit hanging in the garden of a house. A trader of organic manure and passionate about farming, Noushad stopped his vehicle and inquired about it with the owner.

He learnt that it was gac, a foreign-origin fruit with high medicinal value.

“Out of curiosity, I decided to buy some seeds of the plant. They cost Rs 100 per seed. Spending Rs 1,000, I purchased 10 seeds,” Noushad said. After returning home, he planted the seeds in his courtyard. But they didn’t sprout for many days.

“My hopes were dashed and I abandoned the plans on gac farming. However, after around 75 days, I noticed a small bud on the surface where the seeds were planted. Thereafter, it started growing fast. I built a pandal for the plant to climb, and in two months, it spread over the nearly one cent plot and started flowering,” he said.

There are two kinds of gac plants, with male flowers and female flowers, Noushad said.

“No natural pollination happened in this plant. So I studied pollination with the help of an agriculture expert and the flower started turning into fruit in a week’s time. Later, I planted it on my terrace and the growth was huge. Within a year, three harvesting seasons have been completed and an average of 30 to 50kg of gac fruits have grown on my farm,” he pointed out.

While one kilogram of gac fruit is priced at Rs 1,500 in supermarkets, Noushad is selling it at Rs 800 per kg.

Noushad’s wife Shakeela and son Nayif too are helping him nurture the farm.

Gac fruit (Momordica Cochinchinensis Spreng or Muricia Cochinchinensis Spreng) is indigenous to Vietnam, commonly used as a colorant in traditional dishes. The fruit is considered to have originated from southern China and spread from southeast Asia to northeastern Australia.

Recent studies have shown that the fruit has high carotenoid content, especially lycopene and beta-carotene.

These carotenoids are in high demand as they are natural antioxidants to prevent and treat cancers.

The fruit also contains a particular protein that helps prevent the proliferation of cancerous cells. Because of this specific reason, gac has earned the name ‘Heaven’s Fruit’.

Studies say that gac is rich in selenium, minerals, and vitamins, which are important to the nervous system as well as in combating depression.

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