The rare and exotic durian has long been sought out by rare fruit enthusiasts as one of the best fruits in the tropical world. Yet like so much in life, there is another side to the story. Many claims are made concerning this fruit whose aroma has caused it to be banned from public transport and hotels in some countries. "Don't eat durian and drink alcohol, you'll die!" "When the durians fall the sarongs come up!" "The durian tastes like fine french custard, run through a sewer pipe!" Like so much else, beauty, or in this case, taste, is in the palate of the eater.
Durian fruit always seems to spark controversy and interest, perhaps because it is a 50/50 fruit - half like it, half don't. I first tried it in 1979 in Zamboanga City. My host, Henry Poole, an American, had spent most of his life in the Philippines and had grown to love this fruit. Even then it was an expensive fruit due to its seasonal nature and scarcity. Henry served me the fruit with the best of intentions, obviously wanting to share this special fruit. I immediately found it to be the worst-tasting thing I had ever put into my mouth. Detestable to say the least. Not willing to offend my host, I suffered through about half of it.
Henry finished his with relish then remarked, "Delicious, eh?" I didn't answer and by the look on my face, he could see I didn't like it. He remarked, "Well, it grows on you. The next time you try it, you'll like it better!"
For the next two days, using a strong mouthwash, I tried to get this terrible, lingering taste out of my mouth. Needless to say I've never tried it again.
Durian is not native to the Philippines and is believed to have been introduced during the Muslim migrations from Borneo in the 1400s.
Its propagation is limited to areas having no extreme dry periods and no marked rainy or dry seasons where average annual rainfall is within 30 to 50 inches. It does best in soils of volcanic origins. The Malaysian variety grows to 20 m high. Fruit production on mature trees is limited to approximately 20 fruits at best and weighing 3 to 4 kg. Production is limited to about 5,000 hectares.
Within the last 12 years, 3 new dwarf, varieties have been introduced from Thailand. These dwarf varieties are known as Canao, Chener, and Montong. They offer increased fruit production, harvesting and maintenance ease. Mature dwarfs grow to 3 m high and bear extra-large fruits to 6 kg each, and often have up to 75 fruits per tree. The branches must be heavily staked to support the fruits. From seeding to first fruiting is approximately 6 years. About 80% of the volume of each fruit is the edible arils.
In comparison, the Malaysian variety first fruits 8 to 12 years after planting, and about 70% of the volume is edible.
Both types are adapted to altitudes from sea level to 700 m. Thailand presently has 350,000 hectares in production, mostly the dwarf varieties. At this time, the Philippines has about 2,500 hectares devoted to dwarf varieties, mostly in the Davao and Cotabato areas.
Here in the Philippines, Durian thrives only in the southern provinces of Mindanao, Davoa del Sur, Cotabbato, Maquindanao, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur and in the Sulu Archipelago.
It doesn't hurt my feelings a bit that it won't grow here in Zamboanga del Norte province.
Some of the above data was supplied to me by various Mindanao growers and the University of Southern Mindanao Agricultural Research Center.
DATE: March 1992
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