The durian is the fruit of several tree species belonging to the genus Durio. There are 30 recognised Durio species, at least nine of which produce edible fruit. Durio zibethinus is the only species available in the international market: other species are sold in their local regions.
Regarded by many people in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, strong odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk. The fruit can grow as large as 30 centimetres [12 in] long and 15 centimetres [6 in] in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms [2 to 7 lb]. Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species.
The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.
The durian, native to Southeast Asia, has been known to the Western world for about 600 years. The nineteenth-century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace described its flesh as “a rich custard highly flavored with almonds”.
Photo: Singapore