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Durian and its strong smelling fruit

by Pierre To
7 minutes to read

The Durian is a tropical tree that produces edible fruit that smells delicious to some and vile to others.

It is considered to be the fruit king in Asia, the queen being the Mangosteen.

Thai name : Thourian - ทุเรียน


The name comes from the Malay duri, which means 'thorn', the fruit, also called durianIt is only harvested in South East Asia.

It appears as a large ovoid berry (sometimes over 40 cm long), weighing up to 5 kg, with a shell of large spines, and growing on top of tall trees.

It is known for its distinctive taste and strong odour (so much so that it is banned in public places and on public transport by many South East Asian countries).

The genus Durio comprises 30 species, all of which are native to South-East Asia.

At least nine of them produce edible fruit.

The species Durio zibethinus is the only one available on the international market, the sale of the other species remains confined to the regions where they are produced.

Use of durian

The ripe fruit is usually eaten fresh, but has a strong alliaceous smell, which increases with time and becomes downright putrid when the fruit spoils.

It is less strong immediately after harvest, and is less pronounced in some improved varieties.

It is also used to make ice cream, confectionery and pastries.

Durian tray

Durian tray

The durian seeds are also edible when roasted and crushed, and are used to make cakes.

Durian becomes deadly with alcohol!

The durian in combination with alcohol will not only make you sick but can also kill you!

Every year, several deaths are reported in the press in Thailand.

Japanese scientists from the University of Tsukuba have recently established that the durian is able to inhibit the enzyme ALDH, which is our liver's main defence against the toxic by-products of alcohol.

It is also strongly discouraged for people with high blood pressure and pregnant women.

Smell and taste of durian

In 1856, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace gave a description of the flavours of the durian :

"The five quarters of the fruit are silky white on the inside, and consist of a firm cream-coloured pulp texture, containing about three pits each.

A rich cream with a strong almond flavour gives the best impression of durian, but there are occasional appearances of a flavour reminiscent of cream cheese, onion sauce, sherry and other incongruous dishes.

Then there is a rich, viscous creaminess in the pulp that nothing else has but contributes to its delicacy.

The flesh is neither acidic nor sweet nor juicy; yet the fruit neither claims nor needs any of these qualities, for it is perfect in itself and self-sufficient as is.

It doesn't produce any nausea or other bad effects, and the more you eat it, the less likely you are to stop.

In fact, eating durian is a new sensation that is worth a trip to Asia in itself, as Asia has produced a dish of such exquisite and hitherto unrivalled flavour.

The Durian, a tree pollinated by bats

Drawing of a durian fruitAs species pollinate each other, the durian is very rich in terms of colour, smell, consistency of the flesh, size or shape of the seeds.

The phenology of the trees is also very variable.

According to a study conducted in the 1970s in Malaysia, the durians are pollinated almost exclusively by bats of the species Eonycteris spelaea.

A study published in 1996 indicated that two species of the fruit, Durio grandiflorus and Durio oblongus, were pollinated by birds of the family Nectariniidae, and that other species, such as Durio kutejensis, were fertilised by bees, birds and bats.

The durian only flowers for about 3 weeks a year.

The pollinating bats feed during the rest of the year on the flowers found in the mangrove, but the mangrove is often destroyed by humans, which has an influence on the bat population and therefore on the pollination of the durians.

Production and economy

If the durian is not native to Thailand, that country is the main producer of the fruit, with 781,000 tonnes.

Indonesia and Malaysia follow with 267,000 and 265,000 tonnes respectively.

Philippine production amounts to 26,700 tonnes.

Durian production also exists in other countries and regions but in very limited quantities:

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, Florida, Hawaii, Western New Guinea, Polynesia, Madagascar, China and Australia.

In terms of exports, Thailand leads with 111,000 tonnes, followed by Malaysia (35,000 tonnes).

The fruit was introduced to Australia in the early 1960s and hybrids arrived in 197510.

China is a major importer with 65,000 tonnes in 1999, followed by Singapore (40,000 tonnes) and Taiwan (5,000 tonnes).

The United States imported 2,000 tonnes, mostly in frozen form, and the EU imported about 500 tonnes.

The durians can be bought in Europe in Asian shops.

In Japan, one can also find durians in supermarkets.

Source: www.lemanger.fr ; wikipedia.org ; Photos : Chromolithograph of Durian (Durio zibethinus) by Hoola Van Nooten (fl 1863-1885), ca. 1863; Durio kutej: W.A. Djatmiko; Durian tree in Malaysia: Yun Huang Yong; Durian pack: Markalexander100

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