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Facts About the Weird Durian Fruit

Priya Johnson
Durian is an exotic fruit relished mostly in South East Asia. It is known as the 'king of the fruits' and is infamous for its contrasting attributes. It exhibits a stench resembling the stink of crushed garlic mixed with Mediterranean cheese and army socks. However, the foul odor masks a delicious, creamy-textured fruit that pacifies the palate.
Durian, an exotic fruit native to Malaysia and Indonesia is considered to be the 'king of all fruits' in South East Asia.
It is believed to have originated in Borneo and Sumatra, and today besides Malaysia it is also found growing in Thailand, Southern Philippines, New Guinea, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and other Asian countries. Today, Thailand exports more Durian than any other country. Durian has been relished in Southeastern Asia since prehistoric times.
However, Durian have been known to the Western part of the globe for only the past 600 years. Durian is a part of the Bombacaceae family, and this term 'Durian' is common for the tree, as well as the fruit. Here are some Durian fruit facts which are intriguing and quite amusing as well.

Durian Facts

What does the Durian look like?

● The term 'Durian' has been derived from the Malay word 'duri' which means thorn. This is because the fruit features a tough, thick, thorny husk that bears semblance to the husk of a jackfruit.
● Durian tree is characterized by the 10-20 centimeters of highly fragrant, oblong green leaves. The tree grows up to a height of 50 meters, has long life and can live for centuries, if it is not plagued by disease or damaged by soil erosion, lightening, etc. The highest quality of Durian fruit is attained from the oldest Durian trees.
● The Durian tree bears fruit after 4-5 years, and the fruit-bearing season is from May to October. Of the hundreds of known cultivars, the Durio zibethinus is the most widely cultivated species for commercial sale.
● Durian propagation can be carried out either by seed or grafting technique. Grafted trees begin to bear fruit within 4-5 years, however, seedlings take more than 15 years to bear fruit. The seeds when used for propagation have to be planted fresh, as they dry out and lose their viability as time progresses.
● Durian fruit can weigh somewhere around 7 pounds, and can grown to a size of 12 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. The fruit bears semblance to a spiky football and appears dangerous to touch. The outer covering is brownish-green in color.
● The tough, spiky shell of the Durian splits into 5 segments on ripening, thereby revealing a creamy whitish, pinkish or yellowish aril surrounding the large seeds. This aril is the edible part of the fruit.

What does the Durian taste and smell like?

● Reviews about the Durian fruit are contrasting. There are some who simply love Durians, while some simply hate them. This love-hate game has been spearheaded by the taste and smell of the fruit. One amusing and interesting Durian fruit fact is that it is considered to 'taste like heaven and smell like hell'.
● Another riveting Durian fruit fact is that there is no other fruit that is loved and hated so much by people at the same time. An example of this is in Singapore, where people hate it so much that the law prohibits passengers from boarding the Mass Rapid Transit line, if they are carrying a Durian.
On the other hand, Singapore also houses some of the Durian fanatics, who spearheaded the inspiration to build 'Esplanade 4', a high-tech building in the city.
● What does Durian fruit smell like that it causes some people to have a repulsive feel towards it. The odor of the fruit is offensive, smelling like garlic or onion to some extent. Moreover, the stink is similar to that of stinky feet. The stench is also described to be like 'month-old unwashed gym socks'.
This characteristic disagreeable odor has caused it to be banned from public places like hotels, airplanes and buses.
● What does a Durian fruit taste like that lures people towards itself, despite its stench. Durian is an acquired taste and is described differently by different people. Some folks say it tastes like a cross between white chocolate and onions.
When the famous British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace tasted his first Durian in the 19th century, his comment about its taste was:
"A rich, butter-like custard highly flavored with almonds, but intermingled with wafts of flavor that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, brown sherry and other incongruities. The more you eat of it, the less you feel inclined to stop." Once people learn to discern the depth of the fruit's flavor, they soon become fans of this fruit.

When is the Best Time to Pick and Eat a Durian

● Harvesting the fruit involves waiting for the fruit to fall down from the tree and then allowing it to ripen for the next 2-4 days before consuming it. This is the time when the fruit will be the most pungent and tasty.
However, preserving the fruit beyond 5 days causes the fruit to lose its eating quality. Southern Thailand is an exception to this, where the fruit is harvested before falling off the tree.
● While selecting a Durian from the market, one needs to go for the lightest fruit of the pile. Durians with big, fresh, solid stems are the best. On shaking the fruit, a rattling sound should be conduced by the seeds moving inside. This indicates the ripeness.
Moreover, the thorns should be strong and stiff, not brittle. On goring the Durian, it should emerge sticky. Holes on the Durian indicated worm infestation. So be careful while making the purchase.
● Exactly when should you eat the Durian will depend on your personal preference. If you prefer the slightly crisp texture of the fruit, have it when it's just harvested and young. But if you love the creamy and highly aromatic state of the fruit, wait for it to ripen until the husk rips open.
● Durian is also sold in the frozen form, which are most recommended for first-time Durian tasters. This is because the frozen form stinks less and is a great way for people to get introduced to the fruit. Having the fruit fresh may seem instantly repulsive to many in the first try.
● For people who cannot imagine eating even the frozen version, there are several Durian-flavored candies, ice-creams, chips, jams, biscuits, etc. available in stores. Buy them and try them out. It's more likely you will get used to the flavor of the fruit. Then try the frozen variety, which will introduce the fruit flavor more subtly.

Durian Myths and Tales

The Durian fruit has an interesting tale that accompanies its polarizing attributes. The tale talks about an old, ugly king who although powerful, was unable to win the love of his young bride who constantly refused him. He consulted a hermit, who asked for three peculiar ingredients.
The hermit gave the mixture of the three ingredients to the king and asked him to plant it in the palace garden. From these three ingredients emerged the Durian tree. As soon as the bride ate the fruit of the tree, she was charmed by the king.
However, the king forgot to invite the hermit for the later celebrations, which conduced the hermit to curse the fruits borne by the tree. He replaced the aromatic fragrance by rotten odor and replaced the smooth surface by thorny humps.

World Durian Festival

● Thailand is the largest producer of Durian in the world. This fruit is so popular in Thailand that a nine-day festival is also carried out in its honor, in Chanthaburi province during the month of May. Chanthaburi province touts to have the largest number of Durian orchards in the world.
● This festival features parades of carnival floats, Durian-eating competitions and demonstrations of various Durian-dish preparations. Various other local produce are also displayed in this festival.
● Durian shakes are popular at the festival. Moreover, Durian chips, made by the same process as potato chips are also prepared at the festival, which are fun to watch. You can also get the chance to taste the different varieties of Durian available.

How Nutritious is the Durian?

● The gross odor triggers the question 'is Durian fruit healthy?' Its nutritional values are on the higher side, which is why some consume it, even if they dislike its foul odor.
 It is a good source of carbs, protein, dietary fiber and energy. It is also rich in nutrients like Vitamin B, C and E, as well as with amino acids. Moreover, it lacks cholesterol.
● Durian fruit is rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants and is also seen to raise serotonin levels, thereby elevating one's good mood.
● Application of juice obtained from the Durian leaves on heads of people suffering from fever is seen to relieve the person from the same.
● Some of the other Durian fruit benefits are their high iron content that helps get rid of yeast infections such as thrush. It also helps improve libido, etc.

Some other interesting, facetious Durian fruit facts are:

● Never burp after devouring a Durian. The consequences are ghastly!
● Never combine Durian with carbonated drinks. This choice will leave you sorry!
● Never leave the Durian in the car on a hot summer's day or even in a hotel room. The stench will take the wind out of your sails.
● Never kiss your better half after consuming a Durian. You will end up on your rear or even a break-up.
● Durian should not be left uncovered in the fridge. Or else, the entire stuff in the fridge will smell like Durian and you will have only smelly food for dinner.
Fresh Durians are quite expensive. A cheaper alternative would be to purchase frozen Durian. One can eat the fruit as it is, or incorporate it into different Durian fruit recipes. The other Durian fruit uses are Durian-flavored ice-creams, candies, cookies and other confectionaries. They are also added to prepare various sauces and relishes.
Durian fruit seeds are also consumed after boiling, frying or roasting. The unripe fruit is cooked and consumed in the form of a vegetable. As of today, there are no known Durian fruit side effects. However, the combination of Durian fruit and alcohol can trigger side effects such as strong gastro spasms and explosive flatulence.
Durian is certainly an amazing fruit, to be able to conduce such polarized views of itself. Have fun!