Cover Photo taken in Bangkok, Thailand

You either hate it or love it—and if you are the latter, here are some fun facts about the decadent fruit which you probably didn't know about

Additional reporting by Amanda Goh

Durian season is finally upon us. The season usually takes place from June to early October and it is typically a fantastic time with sellers coming in from Malaysia with loads of durians to offer and restaurants and hotels boasting durian buffets and different sweet creations. Fortunately for us, the island is home to a variety of local durian sellers and cafes that offer decadent durian treats for us to get our fix. If you can't get enough of the king of fruits, keep reading to find out some facts about it that you probably did not know about.

Don't miss: The Best Durian Confections in Singapore

1. You know the durian is ripe once it falls from the tree

To know if a durian is ripe, you have to wait for it to fall from the tree. In fact, many farmers in the past used to sleep in their orchards just to hear the fruit drop. However, durians become increasingly costly and precious over the years. According to Tommy Lin, a durian enthusiast who organises local tours and tasting sessions, fruits are now not allowed to drop to the ground as it will hurt how high they can be priced. 

"So now, farms install big nets underneath the trees where it is possible, others deploy workers to climb and tie the strings to the durians stem so that when it ripens, it gets detached and drops but will not hit the ground and damage the thorns," he said.

That said, not everyone would enjoy ripe durians.

Mark Ng, a food experience partner from tour company Simply Enak, said: "In Thailand, some of them prefer unripe fruit mainly to make into durian chips. Once it is ripe, the flesh is soft. So, to make it into chips, you need them to have a hard texture. So you harvest them when they are still on the tree."

2. There is a specific way to choose the right durian

When you go out buying durians this season, make sure you remember some of these important tips to help you choose the best durians.

Firstly, ensure that you don't choose a durian with a cracked bottom. There is a "high chance that it will be watery and that fermentation might have started," said Ng.

You should also give your durian a good shake and listen for a knocking sound. This will tell you if the flesh is dry or creamy or if it is too moist and soggy. 

Finally, make sure that the stem is still attached to the fruit and that it is green and moist. This is how you can tell if the durian just fell from the tree or if it is old. The stem will look dry and dehydrated if your durian is not fresh. 

Of course, ensure that your durian is also not infested with worms and remember that you should not be charged if you find worms in the fruit.

Read more: Karana Founders on Creating Asia’s First Plant-Based Meat Alternative Using Jackfruit

3. There are about 30 different kinds of durians in the world

When it comes to buying durian, we all know that there are a couple of popular varieties such as Mao Shan Wang and D24 that tend to go around. However, did you know that there are actually 30 recognised species of durians in the wild? Out of that, only nine are actually edible. 

"There are many cultivators out there which means durians are cultivated through cloning farming methods to get different looks and tastes. They do this through trial and errors naturally and also by human intervention. There are many varieties in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore," said Lin.

He continued: "Singapore has a few cultivators of their own actually. These are preserved in the Botanical Gardens and the NEA Nursery. But they are not made for commercial purpose. So they are off-limits to the public."

However, as you might expect, it is the naturally grown ones that are more highly sought after and as a result, most of our durians comes in from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. 

"When it comes to Malaysian durians there are about 200 varieties that are commercially registered with MARDI which is the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. Among these are the famous Mao Shan Wang (D197) and Black Thorn (D200)," Lin said. 

In case you missed it: Goodwood Park’s Annual Durian Fiesta Returns—Here are 5 Best Treats to Order

4. There are still durians out there for people who hate the taste

If you are still reading this, you are likely a fan of durian. However, if you aren't, there are so many types of durians out there—even variations for durian haters.

In fact, this is one of the main reasons why Lin enjoys learning about durians this much. 

"Just as there are many connoisseurs of durians eaters out there, there are just as many newcomers to the world of durians. From my past experiences, I have encountered people of different nationalities with different preferences when it comes to the taste of durians. This is where my passion grew and how it became a hobby of mine to introduce new entrants to this mystical fruit," he shared.

He added that his favourite way to introduce someone new to durians would be to let them try the GangHai durian which he affectionately refers to as the "popcorn durian".

When asked why he calls it that, Lin said: "Well, it’s because its seeds are small enough to be the size of popcorn and I usually recommend that people try to eat it with one hand. Just pop the whole thing into your mouth and use your tongue to separate the pulp from the seed. It’s a good training exercise, similar to one we usually do when we tie a knot with a cherry stem in our mouths."  

Lin described the texture to be paste-like and not offensive when it comes to taste. In fact, it is mild and sweet and does not become mushy even when left out for a while. Lin recommended refrigerating the fruit before consuming it.

5. You can add durian to many meals

In Singapore, many people have combined durian with pizza, steamboats, chee cheong fun and more. It's fascinating to some and utterly gross to others. 

In fact, Ng likes to add durian to his fried rice dishes. "When it is in season, I like to add durian into my fried rice and serve it with sambal belacan. It goes pretty well together," he quipped with a laugh.

You can even pair durian with a well structured white wine for the best flavours.

Just remember not to overindulge with this combination as some people say that alcohol can prevent durians from breaking down in your body. This can give you a pretty bad hangover if you are not careful.

6. The most expensive durian was auctioned for SGD$65,000 in 2019

Grown exclusively in Thailand's Nonthaburi province, the Kan Yao variety is one of the highest-grade, rare, and most expensive of the durian breeds. This durian variant has an extremely mild and sweet flesh, with a milder fragrance as compared to other breeds. 

During the King of Durian festival in Thailand in 2019, a single Kan Yao durian was sold for 1.5 million Thai baht (equivalent to SGD$65,000). The single fruit was meticulously handpicked for its shape, colour and hardness. 

Read more: Pure Imagination: Janice Wong Unveils New Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Space at Great World

7. The fruit is incredibly nutritious

Durian pulp is a natural antioxidant and an excellent source of nutrients. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, the exotic fruit is rich in vitamins and healthy plant compounds such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and carotenoids. The latter is a natural antioxidant that can protect your body from diseases, enhancing its immune system. 

The same study also highlighted that on top of its flesh, other parts of the plant can also be used to treat various illnesses. For example, in traditional Malaysian medicine, the leaves of the fruit are juiced and used as an ingredient in lotions to treat fevers. 

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.