| (Spiny gourd; Kantola)
A Vietnamese melon with a spectacular spiny orange-red skin and red fleshly sacs containing the seeds. Looks like something out of Jurassic Park. Even the seeds inside the sacs are impressive -- like brown half-dollar sized meteorites with jagged edges and black lines running through them. As startling as gac is to those unfamiliar with it, the people of Vietnam know it well and revere it as the "fruit from heaven". It is believed to promote longevity, health and vitality, and recent research is providing clues why. The melons are enormous storehouses of lycopene, up to 70 times as much as tomatoes. Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps guard against cancer, and helps to delay the effects of aging. Gac melons are also very rich in carotene, up to 10 times as much as carrots and sweet potatoes. The taste of the red flesh is compared to that of an avocado, and the red flesh covering the seeds are used to make a stunning brilliant red rice dish said to bring good luck. Gac is a perennial vine and although it does flower the first year sometimes fruits fail to develop until the second year. Still, in temperate areas it may be possible to grow it outdoors as an annual like other melons. Start indoors at least 8 weeks before outdoor planting time your area. Seeds are slow and sporadic to germinate, taking a month or more. Soaking the seeds overnight in water helps speed germination. It will climb on lattices in any warm, sunny spot with rich, well drained soil. For good growth vines need The minimum temperature it tolerates is 15C/60F so it needs protection from cool nighttime temperatures. In temperate areas it is best grown in a warm greenhouse where plants will flower freely and produce several fruits. Gac is dioecious which means that male and female flowers are on separate plants. To get fruit set it is necessary to have at least one male flower. Hand pollination of the flowers is probably necessary also. The best strategy is to grow at least 6 plants.