Food & dining

An idea for a juice company bears (totally crazy-looking) fruit

With brilliant orange and spiky outer skin, the gac fruit is the size of a cantaloupe, its inner flesh fiery red and known to be richer in beta-carotene and lycopene than other fruits or vegetables. The fruit grows in Southeast Asia and is not available in markets here, so it’s likely you haven’t seen one. Linh Tran and Myron Lam import extract of the flesh of gac that grows in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and combine it with other fruits and herbs to craft X.O.I., a line of refreshing drinks, mildly sweet without added sugar, in three flavors: Beets & Berries, Apple Chamomile Cider, and Ginger Rosemary Pear ($3.99 for 12 ounces). They launched the company this year and produce the juices at Commonwealth Kitchen, a shared space in Dorchester. But X.O.I. is more than just a beverage company; it’s also a social enterprise to support impoverished growers of gac. Tran, 24, and Lam, 22, recent Brown University grads, traveled to the Central Highlands the summer of their sophomore year for a research project on the ethnic inequality in this large rural area. In their host mother’s backyard, they saw vines bursting with the thorny fruit, which she sold inconsistently and at fluctuating prices. The fruit is used to add a deep red color to the sticky rice dish xoi gac (hence the company’s name), a traditional food eaten at festivals and weddings. Tran, who grew up in Vietnam, and Lam, raised in Hong Kong, started the business to help their host mother, as well as other farmers, attain a fair price for the fruit and fulfill the ambition of earning a living growing gac for global markets. Available at Foodie’s Markets, 1421 Washington St., South End, Boston, 617-266-9911, and 230 W. Broadway, South Boston, 617-269-4700; Pemberton Farms Marketplace, 2225 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-491-2244; and Cambridge Naturals, 23 White St., Cambridge, 617-492-4452; or go to www.xoicompany.com ANN TRIEGER KURLAND

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Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at atrieger@comcast.net.