The Misunderstood; The Durian Fruit!

by Jon Luker

My first experience with this misunderstood fruit was a powerful one. As an American kid growing up in Seattle I did not have many opportunities to try exotic fruits. Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's the most exotic fruits I had tried were tangerine's, pomegranates, and pear apples from Japan. One spring afternoon my parents received a gift in the mail from a business associate from San Francisco. I was allowed to open the package, and to everyone's surprise we were hit with the most pungent of smells that filled the room like a skunk defending itself from a predators. Inside the package were some home baked Durian cookies that the business associates wife had baked for our family. Within seconds my father had taken the package outside and put into the trash can faster than this excited kid had opened the gift. The main things I remember from this experience was the rancid smell that stayed in our living room for what seemed like a week. We never did get to try those cookies.

Still not widely known to many Americans, this delicacy (Durian) that is native to South Asia, is a hidden treasure that is loved, or despised by so many around the world. Regardless if you like, or hate this fruit everyone that has tried it seems to agree, Durian fruit has a pungent odor. In fact so strong and pungent that many places have prohibited Durian fruit from being brought into their establishments, hotels, on public transportation all around the world, and it is banned from many airlines.

Durian fruit has been know by many to be a king among fruits. A very large fruit that has a yellowish-green color with a hard and thick rind that is almost semi-wood like in appearance that have big spikes surrounding the fruit. This can be a slightly dangerous fruit to handle due to the weight, and size of this spiky, oblong fruit that can grow 15" or longer. So you must be careful when handling the Durian fruit.

After breaking this spiky shell you will find a few compartments inside containing the fruit we like to eat. This edible pulp is fleshy, and slimy, and very sweet. This flesh inside the fruit is considered a delicacy by many people. The flesh inside of the fruit that is eaten varies in color, and texture.l From a creamy yellow to white in color, and a silky to slimy pulp in texture that is almost a custard consistency. Inside the pulp of the fruit you will find several chestnut like seeds that are not to be eaten. All this adds to its appeal unlike many other fruits possess.

My next few experiences with this fruit were many years later. In January 2003 I went to Malaysia to visit a friend. His family lives in a small village an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur. I stayed with his family for several weeks, and tried everything that was new to me. Outside their home they had several Durian Trees that were bearing fruit, so every morning we ate fresh Durian fruit. My friend's father would gather the fruit that had fallen on the ground, break it open and scoop the pulp out of the rind, and put it into plastic bags, and then give them to us to eat fresh. I found that if you took a breath of fresh air before taking a bit of the fruit you did not notice the smell as much. Many people say Durian fruit should be compared to some of the strong smells of foreign-made cheese that many people love. If you can get past the smell, it is well worth the rewards in flavor. In the weeks that follow I ate Durian many more times, baked in cakes, and cookies. I tried it pan fried with other things that I am still am not sure was in it, but tasted wonderful. I even ate it frozen as a treat when we went out to dinner one night. Durian fruit is not picked from the tree, but rather you wait for it to drop on its own. Caution is needed when approaching a durian tree when the fruit is in season. Several people have been killed by a falling spiky durian fruit as it falls to the ground.

To my surprise I have learned there are many health benefits to eating this fruit. Durian fruit is high in Fiber, Potassium, Vitamin B-6, and B-9, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Iron, and has higher levels of protein than in most other fruits. Durian is recommended as a good source of carbohydrates, soft proteins, and raw monounsaturated fats.

This fruit has many benefits that doctors around the world have used to help people with varying problems. Durian fruit has been known to work as a blood cleanser, it can help with lowering cholesterol, and even building muscles, with its abundance of protein. This fruit contains high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, it has been known to alleviate anxiety, depression, and even insomnia by creating feelings of happiness with raising the levels of serotonin in the brain. Many doctors in other countries have used other parts of this plant to help with reducing swelling of the skin, and fevers using the roots and leaves. Lastly, many legends say that the Durian fruit is a very powerful aphrodisiac. I know I would rather eat some Durian fruit than a raw oyster before the fun begins.

So I suggest to you to try this misunderstood fruit, but let someone else gather it for you, try it outside, or at their house, and lastly hold your breath as you eat it and you will certainly enjoy the flavors along with the health benefits.

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