All About Durians.

The trees at Fruit n Spice vary in age but mostly they are beyond thirty years old which makes them mature trees and at the height of their fruiting quality. We care for the orchard throughout the year and the surrounding grass, weeds and shrubs are kept down to create a clean and pleasing environment. Durian trees. We use good quality fertilizers and water the trees with naturally occurring springs from the surrounding hills. Our attention to detail and the loving care we put into our orchard trees provides the best possible environment to produce healthy and tasty fruit.

What are Durians?
Durio zibethinus

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say all Malaysians are familiar with this most famous 'King of Fruits'. The Durian is also common in other South East Asian countries like Thailand , Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. To the foreign visitor the Durian may be less familiar, although they have in recent years appeared in speciality fruit and vegetable shops in many major Western cities which have sizable South East Asian communities.

Durians are characterised by their thorny exterior and strong odour. The thorny skin varies from a bright leafy green to a khaki green or brown. The size of a Durian can vary from just a bit bigger than a soft ball to slightly larger than a rugby or American football. They come in different shapes but generally they are roundish to oblong. Larger fruit can weigh several kilos. Extreme caution needs to be exercised if walking under or close to Durian trees during the fruit season as Durians fall to the ground when they are ripe.

Once the almost impenetrable thorny husk has been peeled back the edible fruit is revealed. The fruit varies in colour depending on the type of Durian, from a pale creamy yellow to a deep orange. Opened Durian. The fruit nestles snugly in hollowed out compartments or segments . Each segment needs to be prised apart to get to the next segment. A single Durian may have anything from one to four segments and possibly more for a sizable specimen. There can be just one seed to a segment or five to six for some varieties of Durian. The soft flesh (or aril) encompasses a hard stone or seed. Once again there is a fair amount of variation between the types of Durian when it comes to the amount of flesh and the size of the seed. Some Durians have large firm flesh with small seeds the size of Brazil nut while others are less fleshy with a larger smooth seed about the size of an oblong walnut.

Apart from the thorns it is the strong smell that really makes this fruit stand out. The Durian connoisseur will tell you that it is the smell that really makes the Durian what it is and is the icing on the cake of the whole Durian experience. For the uninitiated the experience can be somewhat less salubrious. Descriptions like rotten meat, bad eggs or an open sewer are just some of the ignominious descriptions given to the Durian smell. The flesh has perhaps been best described as being a firm custard texture. The taste can vary from being sweet or bitter depending on the fruit. The smell combined with the warm soft flavoursome texture is perhaps what makes it so unique from any other fruit in the world.

The Durian is usually eaten fresh after dropping from the tree. Its shelf life can be extended beyond its normal two or three days by refrigerating or even freezing the fruit once it has been removed from its thorny husk. Durian Cake. Durians can also be eaten with rice and have been turned into cakes, candy, chocolates, jam, ice cream and all manner of inventive food products. For some, Durians are an acquired taste but for most Malaysian Durian lovers there is always a sense of excited anticipation when the Durian season comes around.

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History.

Durians have been present in Malaysia for a long time. Fossil records show that the Durio genus dates back approximately 60 to 70 millions years. It is supposed that they originated from Borneo. Traditionally Malaysians planted durians near to or to the rear of their kampong (village) houses. Whole plantations were later cultivated as a commercial crop. The hilly areas on the Western side of Penang island was renowned for the growth in the spice trade produce of Bettlenut, Pepper, Cloves and other popular cash crops from the 1800's onwards. This area also became a prime area for Durian cultivation and remains so to this day.

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Pollination.

Durian trees produce clusters of flowers that dangle below the branches on long stems. The flowers are white with bunches of long stamens extending from each flower. The flowers open in the evenings and emanate a strong smell likened by some to sour milk. Bat and Durian flowers. The flowers attract both insects and bats which act as pollinators. It is the Dawn bat or Cave Nectar Bat (Eonycteris spelaea), that uses its long tongue to feed on the nectar of the Durian flowers that helps in the pollination process. The bat inadvertently covers its head with pollen from the stamens of the flowers when feeding and so transfers the pollen to the next flower it visits. The use of pesticides and the destruction of the bat habitats can therefore have a negative impact on the production of Durians. You can read more about the importance of bats on our Links page above.

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Harvesting Durians.

Durians fall to the ground when ripe, which can damage the outer shell or cause them to open. For commercial purposes many Durian orchards place large nets below the trees to catch the falling fruit. Durian net. Nets also makes locating the Durians easier than rooting around the undergrowth or hilly slopes where many orchards are located in Penang. Some orchard owners go to the trouble of tying string from the branch to the stem of each individual Durian so that when the fruit drops it will remain dangling from the tree. At Fruit n Spice large nets are placed below the most prized trees to prevent any possible damage caused by the fall.

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Choosing a Durian.

There are various ways to choose a Durian when buying from a stall. Visual inspection: Check that the Durian has not started to split open. Rubber bands around the eye are sometimes used by Durian sellers to hold the Durian closed. This might indicate that the Durian was damaged when it fell or more likely it is beginning to open as it is over-ripe. Check and remove leaves which are stuck on the thorny body of the Durian as this may conceal a hole from a Durian grub! Smelling: Hold the Durian close to the nose and smell from the opposite end to the stem. A 'good' aroma will indicate whether the Durian is worthy of purchasing. Shaking: Hold the Durian in cupped hands and shake it close to your ear. A solid feel without any rattling indicates the flesh fills the segments and the Durian is ripe.

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Opening a Durian.

When ripe, the fruit pulp begins to ferment and the Durian begins to split open along its segment lines. The fruit however is usually past its best by then. To eat it fresh, banging the durian repeatedly against a hard surface like a rock might be one way to open it. The simpler method used by the professional Durian seller today is to use a sturdy pen knife that has had its blade shaped into a thin and slightly curved blade. Durian knife and opener. This not only makes the knife extremely sharp but it can easily be poked through the tough spiny shell. The opposite end to the stem (the eye) is cut away to make prising the segments apart easy. A wooden tool shaped like a large flat head screwdriver can also been used. Hold the durian with a piece of cloth or several layers of newspaper with one hand and gradually dig into the eye of the Durian. Opening a Durian. The tool can then be run along the naturally occurring lines which make up the boundaries of the segmented areas within the Durian. The Durian opens. Bear in mind that if the Durian is not fully ripe and is slightly 'green', then it will be more difficult to prise it open. Wooden or mechanical contraptions have also been invented to make Durian opening faster and safer. Place the Durian in the holder and lower the prising spike to the eye. Opener Durian. Lower the lever and the Durian should split in half down its segmented line. See photo. Once the first segment is open and the content eaten or removed, place a palm of your hand on each side of the soft inside edge of the Durian and push down. The segment will split open and reveal the next lot of fruit.

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Folklore and medicine.

Alcohol and Durians don't mix. It is uncertain how this myth came about. However we are not aware of any fatalities that have resulted as a direct consequence of taking both Durians and alcohol at the same time. Driving under the influence of alcohol is much more likely to cause serious injury or death.

In the tradition of Chinese medicine the Durians are described as being "heat-ie" . They can give the feeling of an increased temperature and even give the slight effect of drunkenness. The pulp is actually high in Vitamins A and C, calcium, protein, carbohydrates and fat. So those on a diet be warned! The roots and leaves are used by traditional healers to combat fever and jaundice.

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Durians in tree.

For further information on Durians check out our More Info page or the Links page above.

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