Durian is the fruit of a tree belonging to the Durio genus in the Malvaceae family. Native to the island of Borneo, it is cultivated in tropical areas with a mean daily temperature above 22 °C. Its name comes from the Malay duri, meaning “thorn”. Thailand is the leading producer, followed by Malaysia and Indonesia. Chantaburi hosts the annual World Durian Festival.
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Depending on the species, durian trees can reach a height of 50 metres. They have one or two flowering periods per year, depending on cultivar, species, and location. The fruit matures three months after pollination. A typical tree will begin bearing fruit after four or five years. Of the 30 known species of Durio, nine produce edible fruit. The flesh constitutes 15-30% of the mass of the entire fruit, which can grow up to 30 centimetres in length and weigh as much as three kilograms. This is why people refrain from entering a durian orchard at night, which is when the ripe fruit falls from the tree.
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Despite the notoriety of durian’s smell, which has seen it banned from public buildings and transportation, different species can have significantly different aromas. The smell of the variety grown in the Mekong delta was funky but not overpowering, unlike the ones I have encountered elsewhere. Ripeness also affects flavour and aroma, with people in different countries having significantly different preferences – from crisp and mild, to ripe and pungent.
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I ate some durian for breakfast at Mr. Kiet’s Historic House, harvested from the orchard right on their property. This was a homestay in Phu Hoa Village where I stayed overnight while cycling through Cai Be District in the Mekong delta. I was surprised by the sensuousness of the durian’s flavour and texture – soft and aromatic, like a rich and creamy custard with almonds. I can see how the Javanese believe durian to have aphrodisiac qualities, expressed in the saying, durian jatuh sarung naik (when the durians fall, the sarongs come up). It was just the wrong time of day to test this out.
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Article written by Rick Green-culinary adventurer and creator of Adventurocity.com
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