The durian is a type of tropical fruit.

The durian tree grows up to 40 metres in height and durians can hang from any branches, and a typical durian can weigh 1-2 kg, so a durian plantation during durian season is hardhat territory. A durian breaking a 20 metre fall directly on your head can be very bad for your health!

The durian is native to Malaysia and Indonesia although it can grow in any similar climate (there have been some successful durian plantations in Queensland, Australia). The fruit is green to brown, oblong to round, prickly with strong sharp thorn and emits a strong distinctive durian smell that puts most foreigners off. It is often called the "king of fruits" by locals.

The scientific name for the durian is Durio zibethinus Murr.

There are many clones of the durian, all having a name starting with D and a number. For example, some popular clones are D24, D99, D158 and D159 (this is the 'Mon Thong' variety).

more info:
See also how to choose a good durian

This fruit has a thorny green shell with soft yellow flesh around the seed. It has certain grades and the ones that seem to be the most popular are the ones that come from Thailand, which give out a strong fragrance, which most foreigners find repulsive. The workers in the plantations never have the need to wear helmets when they go round during harvesting season to pick up the fruits which have fallen from the trees(As opposed to the coconut which has no 'eyes').

Some nations where the durian is popular have laws against taking them on public transportation, and many hotels and rental cars forbid them, because the odor is so amazingly pungent.

Yesterday, March 25, 2000, I went down to Chinatown and bought myself a fat Mornthong durian. It was intense. It smelled like rotting meat or ass or a gas stove that wasn't lit. But it tasted really good. Like custard type consistency with really sweet flavors and a touch of garlic. Really crazy striations going on as well.

After the Ketamine, though, I just kind of wanted it out of my room.

Durian are what the Chinese call "heaty" fruit: they're liable to give you really bad gas.

Urban legend has it that if you drink alcohol and eat more than a kilo of durian at a time (and the people who love it, LOVE it and could with effort pack that much in in a sitting), the effects of the "heatiness" in the durian could put a person in a coma.

I don't believe this, myself.

I worked for a while in a bar on the East coast of Malaysia that was frequented by backpackers and Western and Malaysian oilmen. I remember a couple of Malay guys in particular who would go out for dinner and have a big feed of durian for dessert and then come in for their cans of warm Guinness (they thought it was medicinal) and proceed to burp durian gas till the whole (open-air) place stank of them.

I occasionally had to call them a cab, but never an ambulance. Didn't stop these fellas from crowing about the razor's edge they were walking, doing durian and Guinness.

Durian are one thing I do not miss about Southeast Asia.

According to my durian-eating Malaysian-Chinese auntie, the best way to rid yourself of the durian smell is to fill the empty half-shell of a durian with water, slosh it about a bit, wash your hands in it then use the water as a mouthwash. Of course, this requires that you can stand the smell for long enough to do so. My first experience of eating durian was a year ago, when my Mum (also Malaysian Chinese) gave me a large lump of durian flesh to eat. I popped the thing in my mouth, chewed once, nearly gagged, spat it out, and ran to wash out my mouth. I didn't stay around for the durian-flavored mouthwash.

The smell of durian is amazingly hard to get rid of. Soap doesn't help very much. The taste stays in your mouth for a long time and is only temporarily masked by toothpaste or mouthwash. If you happen to be attending a roughly twenty-person family reunion where you are one of four people who can't stand durian, and someone brings out a couple of bags of the dread fruit, the safest strategy is to stay in the house and lock the door. Durian breath is not pleasant.

I'm not sure whether the taste for durian is something one is born with, or whether it can be acquired. Whether one is willing to eat enough of a fruit that tastes like a cross between banana, garlic and something you'd drag out of a garbage can to get a taste for it is a different question.

I was cutting it open on the bench, making a large tear about halfway around its circumference near the bottom. I bent down to smell the inside, pulling the tear ajar a little. It smelled strange, but not awful, not rotting-body-awful, which was what I expected. I lengthened the tear to about 3/4 of the circumference and pulled the two sections apart. Looking at the insides, and smelling it, I didn't want to touch it, let alone eat it. I took a teaspoon out of the drawer, and started poking at the semi-liquid yellow globs inside.

"This looks truly revolting on the inside, it's not appetising in the slightest," I yelled into the corridor.
"Does it stink yet?", Mum shouted back.
"Not really, it just smells odd."
Mum walked into the kitchen, edging closer to the bench, as if I were cutting open a diseased body. Suddenly she threw her head back, and with a "pwoooah", she put her hand over her mouth and nose.
"Oh god, can't you smell that?"
"It's not that strong."
"It is! And just look at it! God, that's terrible."
"OK, I'll take it outside then."

I went out the back door, carrying it on the cutting board. I poked at it a bit more, and put about half a teaspoon of it in my mouth. It tasted a little sweet, but also strange, like food that was well past its time. I was unsure about it now. I sent a text message to Eileen, a Vietnamese-Australian friend of mine. It read: "Have you ever eaten a durian? I just tried one and it was bloody awful." That was a bit of an exaggeration. A few minutes later, when I was inside, I received the reply: "Yes, I certainly have! They're delicious!!" After a bit of a debate with Mum about whether to call or text her back (Mum wanted me to call, I thought it was strange to be calling about a fruit), I called her.

Me: Hey!

Eileen: Oh, haha, Hi!

Me: What's up?

Eileen: Not a lot, really, how about you?

Me: Yeah, not much.

Eileen: So, about this durian?

Me: Yeah, I just ate some, what is it meant to be like?

Mum: You didn't actually eat some, did you?

Me: Yes, I had a bit.

Mum: Well, you're braver than I am.

Eileen: Sorry, what?

Me: Sorry, I was talking to my Mum, she's right here. She has a knitting needle in her mouth.

Eileen: Hahaha, OK. Yeah, well, they're pretty stinky.

Me: Yes, it's sitting outside now, I cut it up and Mum couldn't stand it.

Eileen: Hahaha, yeah, that happens. You know they don't let you take them on buses and things in Asia?

Me: Yeah, I heard that, I've seen photos of street signs, with the outline of a durian and a big red cross over it.

Eileen: Yep.

Me: So, what are they meant to be like, to eat?

Eileen: Umm, a bit sweet and really creamy.

Me: Right. Because ours looks just like cold custard on the inside.

Eileen: Yeah! That's exactly right.

Me: OK. Because I thought that maybe we just had a bad one.

Eileen: Where did you buy it? I wouldn't think you could get one in Armidale.

Me: Just at Woolworths.

Eileen: Huh. That's weird, because they have to come a long way, from the tropics.

Me: Yeah, exactly, that's why I thought that maybe this one was off or something. It just looks like it's rotting on the inside.

Eileen: No, no, that's just how they look, hahaha.

Me: OK. Well, I guess it's an acquired taste. I don't know. We just bought one to give it a try, and I suppose that was a bad idea.

Mum: It said 'frozen' on the label!

Me: Yeah, that's Mum, she says it said 'frozen' on the label.

Eileen: They do that a lot.

Me: To keep them from smelling, right?

Eileen: No, I think just because they have to travel so far. Oh hey, do you remember around 2001, when all that terrorism hysteria was happening, there was that story about the guy taking one on a plane? I guess you were only a kid.

Me: Aah, no, I don't remember any specific story like that, but I definitely remember the hysteria, yes.

Eileen: Well, someone took it on as carry-on luggage, and to stop the smell they sprayed it with anti-perspirant.

Me: As you do.

Eileen: Yeah, well, you know how some of the sprays leave that white powder?

Me: And they thought it was anthrax.

Eileen: Hahaha, yeah, they did.

Me: Because that's just the logical way to transport anthrax, isn't it. On a large spiky fruit.

Eileen: Hahaha, yes. Of course.

Mum: What's this about anthrax?

Etc, etc.

We talked for a little while (it was her birthday), and later I tried eating some more of the durian, but in the end I hardly had a tablespoon of it. I wrapped it in a plastic bag and threw it out, wondering if it had been worth spending $13 to find out that I didn't like a fruit that is rarely available in any place with a humidity level that I can bear.

Du"ri*an (?), or Du"ri*on (?), n. Bot.

The fruit of the durio. It is oval or globular, and eight or ten inches long. It has a hard prickly rind, containing a soft, cream-colored pulp, of a most delicious flavor and a very offensive odor. The seeds are roasted and eaten like chestnuts. Also Durion.

© Webster 1913.

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