The King of Fruits, Durian, is the National Fruit of Singapore. Based on records and stories, durian is a fruit that originated from Borneo and Sumatra. Several plants were cultivated in wide regions of India and New Guinea. This fruit was traded in Myanmar 400 years ago, and since then, was made available in South Vietnam and Thailand.
One of the earliest records wherein the fruit of durian was recorded was the document by European’s Niccolo Da Conti. He traveled Southeastern Asia during the 15th Century. Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese Physician, documented and published an article about durian in 1563. Meanwhile, Georg Eberhard Rumphius, a German botanist, also published in 1741 a book where he provided details about durian.
Scientifically named as Durio zibethinus, Durian is from the Malvaceae family, of helicteroideae subfamily, and from the genus durio. Durian belongs to a genus with around 30 recognized species, wherein 9 of which are edible.
Native to Borneo and Sumatra, Durian with durio zibethinus scientific name is the species found in the international market. Other species of the edible durian are found in the local market only.
The name “durian” was derived from the word “duri” which is an Old Malay Language that means thorn. This was explained by the thorns of the fruit. On the other hand, the name “zibethinus” was derived from “civet” which refers to “odor.”
Distinct not only because of its thorn-covered rind, durian is also recognized for its strong odor and large size. The fruit can be as big as 30 centimeters in length and 15 centimeters in diameter. Each large fruit may weigh up to 3 kilograms while the small to medium size of durian may weigh from 1 to 2 kilograms. Some durians are in round shape while some are in oblong shape. Depending on the species, the fruit may have husk green or brown color and the color of the flesh varies from yellow to pale yellow to red.
The durian fruit is said to be distinctly fragrant and aromatic. However, other people find the scent to be unpleasant, thus hate the fruit. The odor may also persist for days in a closed area, and because of this, most public transportation, by sea, by air, and by land ban it. Some hotels also ban this fruit inside their premises to prevent clients from the distracting odor.
However, there are regions and countries that give high favor to durian fruits. They even consider durian as a fruit rich in flavors like custard and almonds, as well as in nutrients.
As a result of cultivation over the centuries, cultivars of durian are distinguished through the shape of the fruit and color of the flesh.
There are more than 200 Thai durian cultivars. One of the most sought-after varieties is Mon Thong. It has thick and full-bodied flesh with creamy and sweet taste. The distinct scent is mild, which is why people prefer Mon Thong than other varieties.
Modern cultivars already lack the odor and can be transported from one place to another via public transportation. The large cultivation of Durian in Thailand makes the country the number one exporter of durian.
Interesting Facts about Durian
Durian is indeed interesting from its thorny rind to creamy flesh to pleasant (or unpleasant) smell. Aside from the distinct smell or odor, that people love or hate, the fruit of durian is also distinguished as a super fruit. It is rich in nutrients like vitamin C, iron, potassium, and fiber. Durian helps improve the blood pressure, as well as the health of the skin and the strength of the muscle. Another thing to note is that it contains rich amount of fiber. In fact, a small flesh of durian may already contain 23 grams of fiber, which is enough for the daily dietary nutrition required. However, excessive consumption of durian may lead to dizziness and breathlessness.
Because of the overpowering scent or odor of durian, this fruit is not welcome on public transport whether on air transportation, land transportation, and sea transportation. In Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand, you will be fined if you carry durian fruit in public vehicles. The aroma of this fruit was explained to be caused by phytochemicals. The durian fruit is said to contain hundreds of phytochemicals and diverse volatile compounds like alcohol, ketones, organosulfur, esters, and thiols. The flesh also has polyphenols and carotenoids, as well as beta-carotene.
Durian fruit, although many say that its smell is distinct, is still far from exact description in terms of smell and taste. Those who already ate durian find it impossible to specifically characterize into detail what or how the flesh tastes and the fruit smells.
Durian fruit is also inspiring. Many artists were inspired of the unique shape and skin of this fruit. In fact, the Esplanade – theatres on the Bay in Downtown Core, Singapore was designed based on the fruit. The building was even called as “the durian.” Two firms of architects worked in conjunction to create the said design. They are DP Architects of Singapore and Michael Wilford & Partners, a London-based architectural firm.
The formidable look of durian fruit, its overpowering odor, and its creamy, sweet taste make it a one-of-a-kind fruit in Southeast Asia and in the world. Symbolically, referred as the world’s smelliest fruit, durian is the representation of Singapore, that once you taste it and smell, you will never forget.