Momordica cochinchinensis (Cucurbitaceae) is the richest source of lycopene and β-carotene of all known fruits but the influences of collection sites, variety and environment on carotenoid accumulation is unknown. This study analysed the carotenoid content of 44 M. cochinchinensis aril samples collected from Australia, Thailand and Vietnam using HPLC, UV-visible spectrophotometry and compared with the colorimetry method. The highest lycopene content was observed in samples collected from Ha Noi (7.76 mg/g) of Northern Vietnam and Lam Ha (6.45 mg/g) and Lam Dong (6.64 mg/g) provinces of Central Vietnam. The highest β-carotene content was observed in a sample from Nam Dinh (9.60 mg/g) in Northern Vietnam while a variety from Hoa Binh province in Northern Vietnam had high contents of both lycopene (5.17 mg/g) and β-carotene (5.66 mg/g). Lycopene content was higher in samples collected from low temperatures (<14 °C) and higher elevations whilst β-carotene content was greatest at temperatures between 27 and 33 °C. Crop improvement for increased lycopene and β-carotene requires rapid and accurate methods of quantification. All three analytical methods utilised were in agreement for lycopene quantification. The (a*/b*)2 transformed colour value resulted in more linear relationship for lycopene indicating that colorimetry method could potentially be developed to select lycopene rich fruits in the field.
Keywords: Collection sites; High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC); Lycopene; Momordica cochinchinensis; β-carotene.