Is durian stinky? It’s subjective and it depends on the type of durian that you are consuming.
The durian is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia region and has the reputation of ‘King of Fruits’. The fruit is distinct for its large size, thorn-covered rind and strong, distinct smell. There are over 100 named varieties grown in Malaysia, 100 in Thailand and 300 in Indonesia. First coined around 1580, the name durian originated from the Old Malay language ‘duri’ that means thorn.
Cultivation and Growth of Durian
Durian trees are large and can grow to 25 – 50 meters in height depending on the species. The flowers are produced in three to thirty clusters on large branches and directly on tree trunks. A typical durian tree can bear fruits after four or five years. Durians can hang from any branch, approximately three months after pollination.
Durian is a seasonal fruit, unlike other non-seasonal fruits like papaya which are available throughout the year. Durian seasons occur between June to August and December to February. However, there has been much uncertainties in harvest in recent years, plausibly due to changing weather patterns that could have been a result of climate change.
Smell of Durian
We all know that Durian has a very distinct smell that is often described as onion, rotten eggs, turpentine or gym sock. For those who appreciate it the taste in the month is distinct, creamy, fruitiness and often bitter-sweet. To find out more about the background information on durian, please click here. Travelers to Singapore and the region should try the thorny and unusual fruit. Who knows you might find yourself liking it like many who has come before you. Even if you hate the taste, the experience would be worth its while and one of the best stories for you to tell when you are back home.
Scientific Discovery of the Cause to Durian Smell
In a study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) has identified that a group of genes known as methionine gamma lyases (MGL) that regulates volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) which is responsible for the odour. The study mapped the genome of the Southeast Asia delicacy and found out that the volatile sulfur compounds become highly activated as durian ripens causing the distinct smell.
The scientists sequenced the genome of the Musang King (also colloquially as Mao Shan Wang), a variety of durian, discovering it has about 46,000 genes, nearly double the number in the human genome.
Durian has 4 copies of MGL hence the fruit is ‘turbocharged’ in the production of VSC, as the co-leader Patrick Tan, who is from Duke-NUS Medical School, puts it. The researchers said that this odour may play a critical role for durian in the wild, helping it attract animals to eat it and disperse its seeds.
The Singaporean team also traced back the lineage of durian to some 65 million years ago to a common ancestor of the cacao plant, which beans are used to make chocolate.
The $500,000 project was funded by “fellow durian lovers” in Singapore, who wished to be anonymous.
In Southeast Asia, people in Singapore and Malaysia have grown up with durian and it is an integral part of the culture for many local families. Durian is even ban on public transports in Singapore due to its strong odour that has disturbed fellow passengers in the past. Durians have many grades and varieties. When chosen right, one can really start to appreciate its creamy and fruity taste. Thus, it is very important to choose the right sellers if its your first time trying out durian during your visit to Southeast Asia.
Source: Nature Genetics