During an event in 2018, Kerala’s Jojo Punnackal came across a melon-sized fruit in bright reddish-orange colour with a spiny exterior. He collected a few of its seeds.

It was those few seeds that later on changed his life. His house is famed for growing an exotic and nutritious foreign fruit known as gac fruit, which is native to Vietnam.

“We have a few cash crops like rubber, areca nut, etc on our land but gac turned out to be my most prized possession,” he says.

Today, he grows over 30 gac fruit plants on his house terrace, front yard, and also in the 60 cents of land around his house.

The market price for 1 kg of gac fruit ranges between Rs 900 to Rs 1,200, but he hasn’t started selling the fruits commercially. Instead, he annually earns Rs 2 lakh by selling its seeds.

The gac fruit, when cut open, has an orange-coloured edible fleshy interior with black-coloured seeds and a dark red pulpy covering.

Also known as Chinese bitter cucumber or spiny gourd, these fruits are regarded as the ‘fruits of heaven’ due to their nutritional benefits.

These fruits are a good source of antioxidants (carotenoids), especially beta-carotene and lycopene. Its seeds and leaves are used in treating conditions related to skin and eyes.

Jojo uses the raw fruit as a vegetable to make thoran (vegetable dish) and curries. It is also used to make value-added products like skin creams, soaps, jams, and oils.