Durian



The name “durian” was derived from the Malay word for thorns, duri.1 The world-renowned naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, said this about the fruit: “It is like a buttery custard flavoured with almonds, intermingled with wafts of flavour that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, brown sherry and other incongruities.... It is neither acid, nor sweet, nor juicy, yet one feels the want of none of these qualities, for it is perfect as it is”.2 There were others who also spoke strongly about the fruit, but to contrary effect.3 Probably no other fruit has had so many contradictory descriptions written of its smell and flavour.4 Durians are not plucked but allowed to fall, which is when they are best consumed.5

Origins and distribution
Often dubbed the “king of tropical fruits”,6 the durian tree is a tropical fruit tree under the hibiscus family, Malvaceae (Bombacaceae).7 It is thought to have originated from either Malaya or Borneo, and has been cultivated for centuries in tropical Asia.8 It is said to be the most highly prized fruit in the region.9


Description
The durian tree can grow up to 120 ft (approximately 36.6 m).10 It has a straight trunk from which numerous horizontal branches extend.11 The bark of the tree is flaky and has shades of grey or reddish brown. Its leaves are simple and vary from a pale olive colour to bronze green.12

Durian trees reach maturity between five and seven years, and produce fruits twice a year.13 Flowers are borne only for a day, during which they are pollinated and drop off. The melon-shaped fruit then takes approximately three months to ripen, before falling and splitting on the ground. This attracts many forms of wildlife to eat the fruit and then disperse the seeds, thus propagating the fruit.14 Propagation can also be achieved with grafting and budding.15

Typically, the quality of the durian fruit is best when the tree is 30 to 60 years old.16 The fruit usually has a length of 20 to 35 cm, and a diameter of 18 to 22 cm. The weight could range from 1 to 9 kg.17 It is distinguished by its olive-geen colour and coarse rind, which is studded with sharp spikes. This thick armour protects the fruit from being damaged by the impact of falling from great heights.18 The segments of the fruit reveal several portions of creamy, yellow flesh, each encasing a hard, light-brown seed. It is the rich, custard-like flesh that is typically consumed. The flesh, however, has a pungent aroma that some people find offensive. Its odour is so overpowering that it is the only fruit banned from airline cabins, hotels and some types of public transport systems.19 For example, Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit stations have prominent signboards indicating the ban, which is followed by a fine if violated.20

With their thick sweet flesh, unique aroma and full flavour, the Thai Mon Thong durians command the highest prices.21

Usage
Food
The durian fruit is an important and nutritious source of food for many wild animals that inhabit the rainforest. Evidence shows that even tigers and elephants are fond of the fruit, which has high vitamin and mineral content, including vitamins E, B, and C. The durian is also a good source of carbohydrate, protein, iron and potassium.22

Arguably, the durian fruit tastes best when eaten fresh, but there are other ways to enjoy it.23 For example, the flesh is also used to make desserts such as dodol, durian cakes and paste, as well as durian jam. The Malay community favours the practice of adding prawn paste to salted, preserved durian flesh (tempoyak).24 Another popular method is to preserve the flesh with brown sugar, then boil or fry it (lempok).25 More recent durian dishes include durian puffs, durian chendol and durian ice-kachang.26 Also edible are the durian seeds, which can be served either boiled, baked or fried.27

Medicine
It is said that the fruit has aphrodisiac properties.28

A preparation of the durian tree’s roots and leaves is prescribed by traditional doctors for fever and jaundice.29

Others
There is a Chinese myth about the lethal combination of durians and alcohol…. It is believed that the mixture is too “heaty” for the body, and thus may cause death.30

Variant names
Common name: Durian daun.31
Colloquial name: Durian kampong.32
Scientific name: Durio zibethinus. The word durio was coined in 1763, derived from the Malay word duri which means “thorns”. Zibethinus was conied by a scientist in 1774. It was named such because the fruit’s pungent smell was reminiscent of zibetto, which is Italian for “civet cat”.33
Thai name: Thu-rian.34



Author
Annalisa Dass



References
1. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
2. Wallace, R. W. [2008]. The Malay Archipelago. [Hong Kong]: Periplus Editions (HK), pp. 57–58. (Call no.: RSEA 915.9804 WALR-[TRA])
3. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
4. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 98. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
5. Tate, D. J. M. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 60. (Call no.: R 634.6 TAT)
6. Lim, T. K. (1990). Durian: Diseases and disorders. Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 634.609595 LIM)
7. Subhadrabandhu, S., & Ketsa, S. (2001). Durian: King of tropical fruit. Wellington, N.Z.: Daphne Brasell Associates with Lincoln University Press; Wallingford, UK: CABI Pub., p. 3. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 SUB); Burkill, I. H. (1966). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. I). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 885. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR); Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 94. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
8. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 98. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
9. Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia & Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
10. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 94. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
11. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
12. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 94. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
13. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, pp. 97–98. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
14. Yeap, P. (2006). Durian: The true pearl of the Orient. Penang, Malaysia: Pepeta, p. 46. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 YEA)
15. Tate, D. J. M. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 60. (Call no.: R 634.6 TAT)
16. Yeap, P. (2006). Durian: The true pearl of the Orient. Penang, Malaysia: Pepeta, p. 22. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 YEA)
17. Tate, D. J. M. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 60. (Call no.: R 634.6 TAT)
18. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 97. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
19. Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia & Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
20. Durians banned on MRT trains. (1988, May 31). The Straits Times, p. 16; Nor E. Badron. (1990, June 10). King of fruits goes places, despite its smell. The Straits Times, p. 14; Ee, J. (1998, June 6). Durians for the discerning. The Business Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Chan, M. (1984, May 13). Golden glory. The Straits Times, p. 3; Ee, J. (1998, June 6). Durians for the discerning. The Business Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press, p. 96. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA); Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
23. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 98. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
24. Tate, D. J. M. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 60. (Call no.: R 634.6 TAT); Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press, p. 96. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
25. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 98. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)
26. Yeap, P. (2006). Durian: The true pearl of the Orient. Penang, Malaysia: Pepeta, pp. 34–41. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 YEA)
27. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press, p. 96. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
28. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 20, 22. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
29. Tate, D. J. M. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 60. (Call no.: R 634.6 TAT); Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
30. Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia & Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
31. Yeap, P. (2006). Durian: The true pearl of the Orient. Penang, Malaysia: Pepeta, p. 84. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 YEA)
32. Lim, T. K. (1990). Durian: Diseases and disorders. Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 634.609595 LIM)
33. Lim, T. K. (1990). Durian: Diseases and disorders. Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press, pp. 1, 3. (Call no.: RSING 634.609595 LIM)
34. Allen, B. M. (1967). Malayan fruits: An introduction to the cultivated species. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 99. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.09595 ALL)



Further resource
Keon, M. (1960). The durian tree. New York: Simon and Schuster.
(Call no.: RCLOS 823.91 KEO)



The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Cookery>>Types of meals>>Desserts
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
Tropical fruit--Southeast Asia
Plants
Durian--Southeast Asia
Nature>>Plants