Durian fruit is an exotic tropical species native to Southeast Asia with some unique qualities unlike any other fruit variety. Durian's are large, spiky and very obscure-looking, not something you would think would be very desirable to eat. Conversely, the inside is quite the opposite containing a number of pale-yellow, soft fleshy pods of sweet fatty fruit. The pods are divided into sections by a thick inner rind.
While found abundantly in Asian street markets all over Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia when in season, fresh durian is very rare in other parts of the world.
One of the good things about this tropical fruit, however, is that it can be frozen and thawed, still maintaining a ripe freshness as if it was just picked from a tree. This characteristic is a result of the fruits high fat content. It is almost always available in frozen form in most Asian markets across the U.S. and other countries.
Durian, commonly referred to as the "king of fruits", is heavy, usually weighing between 2-7 pounds (0.9kg-3.2kg) and is typically eaten as a pudding-like dessert all by itself or with other ingredients and spices. For some people, durian makes the perfect picnic-type food, like watermelon, and is a delectable treat to be opened and shared with friends or family members. The pods are soft and, if you are a durian-lover like we are, taste like a thick rich vanilla custard that you can mash and eat with a spoon.
In some parts of Asia it is prepared with vanilla, milk, coconut and a sweetener. The fruit, however, is not favored by everyone and can either taste sweet and buttery with a hint of almonds OR it can have a less palatable flavor that is off-putting to some people.
Durian is an especially popular fruit variety among those adhering to a fruitarian or raw vegan diet because it provides an energizing fuel that is a good source of healthy fats. Durian's are similar to fat-rich avocados and if you are concerned about calorie intake, this fruit is not your best choice for weight loss. A one cup serving contains 357 calories, most of which comes from its 20% fat content. (Source)
This high fat ratio helps to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream and helps to provide a long burning fuel source. Being a raw plant fat, durian does not increase cholesterol, but has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which help to lower your levels of low-density lipoproteins or "bad" cholesterol. When eaten in moderation, durian's are a nutritious super fruit variety that provides several antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial to the skin, digestion as well as sexual libido.
Being high in calories, they are especially energizing for intense physical activity and can help to foster weight gain and nourish depleted individuals. The fruit's high thiamine, tryptophan and potassium content make it a desirable food for relaxing the nervous system, relieving anxiety and improving muscle tone. High in fiber, durian is helpful as a gentle laxative and, containing both carotenoids and Vit. C, additionally supports immune functions.
Durians are known for their very strong "aroma" and are banned from many public places in Asia for this reason. They have a distinct scent that can smell like different things to different people, but generally the ripe fruits have a gaseous odor that smells like onions, turpentine, propane gas or extremely ripe fruit.
This "fragrance" can be detected before the fruit is opened but becomes especially apparent when the seam is torn and the fleshy pods are removed. The scent becomes even stronger when the actual seeds are taken out of the fruit. Some of the constituents thought to be responsible for the odor are various esters, sulfuric compounds and ketones.
Durian is native to Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, but is grown for export in other countries like the Philippines and Thailand. Similar to other fruits like acai, mango, jackfruit, golden berry, mangosteen and noni, fresh varieties are limited to tropical climates. It is a seasonal fruit, ripening in the summer months when it is harvested, preserved or frozen for use during the year.
The durian fruit grows on the durian tree and takes approximately 3 months to bud, develop and ripen. Some people confuse durian with jackfruit because it is comparable in size and appearance, but it is not the same fruit. Jackfruit is also a green color and has a less thorny exterior.
There are actually several durian tree species all belonging to the genus Durio. The variety consumed and sold exclusively for export is the Durio zibethinus species. This fruit has a pale yellow-colored flesh as opposed to other tropical variations that have a saffron-like color. The name durian is derived from the Malay word "duri" which means "thorn." The flowers are abundantly filled with sweet nectar that attract and rely upon bees, birds and especially cave bats to pollinate them.
Since prehistoric times, durian has been used as a food source by human inhabitants of Southeastern Asia. The fruit later spread to other parts of the world about 600 years ago, which is when it was recorded by European travelers. It has only been imported internationally from tropical regions since the early 1990's.
Although it looks like a task to get open, the durian fruit easily tears apart once you find the part of the husk to split it open. Durians have a soft flexible "seam" that when pushed with a slight amount of pressure exposes a section of fruit with pods laying lengthwise. Usually these seam lines are in several places where the segments divide and can be identified by the way the thorny spikes move inward.
The fruit is nestled in the rind unattached to anything. Pods of various shapes and sizes simply lay inside each section in their own compartments and are easily removed.
It is considerably important to be cautious when opening durian. You can hold a whole fruit in your hands without injury as they are not sharp enough to puncture the skin, but you should never push down hard on the spikes. To open it you can gently, push down on the seam or wedge a dull knife down into it and it will start to rip apart. Further proceed by pulling back gently on both sides of the husk.
You can eat the edible pods of "meat" right out of the durian or store it for later use as there will be quite a lot to eat in one sitting. Within each pod is a large reddish-brown seed that is usually discarded or used to plant another durian tree depending on where you live.
Durian fruit is a highly energizing super fruit high in raw fat content but is also packed with fiber, which is evident by the long fruity string-like strands running length-wise through each pod. This fibrous component essentially helps to increase the digestibility of the fats, acting as a gentle laxative that relieves constipation and encourages regular bowel movements. Durian is made up of a non-saturated fat that does not increase cholesterol levels.
In a published 2007 study from Oxford it states that "In conclusion, ripe durian contains a higher quantity of bioactive compounds, has higher antioxidant capacity and nutritional value. It positively affects the plasma lipid profile, the plasma glucose and the antioxidant activity. Therefore, the ripe durian supplemented diet could be beneficial for patients suffering from hypercholesterolemia."
This unique tropical delicacy is quite high in calories, so it is not
recommended for reducing excess body weight unless it is used in
moderation as a replacement for other fats in the diet. It is, however,
the perfect addition to a whole food plant-based diet for added variety
as well as nutrition. It is especially great for increasing caloric
intake for raw vegan and fruitarian diets as it is a building food rather than a cleansing one. Helpful for replenishing the body, it revitalizes energy and is useful for gaining healthy body weight.
Consuming fresh durian fruit is very nourishing for the skin and hair, as are a number of other fatty fruit varieties, providing the necessary components for healthy glowing skin and revitalized hair follicles. The high Vit.C content available in the fruit is moreover another ingredient important for making collagen and maintaining skin health.
The fruit is naturally abundant in antioxidant carotenoids, like beta-carotene, and is particularly high in vitamin C content with a one cup serving providing for about 80% of the daily recommended value.
It contains a number of B vitamins like folate, niacin and pantothenic acid with good amounts of riboflavin, but is predominantly high in thiamin and B6 (or pyridoxine). Thiamine is important for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human central nervous system and directly regulates muscle tone, along with acetylcholine which is additionally responsible for activating muscle fibers. GABA is also known for its relaxing effects that inhibit anxiety and prevent convulsions. Vitamin B6 is involved in many aspects of macronutrient metabolism and is a synthesizer of neurotransmitters and hemoglobin.
Durian’s are high in several mineral substances especially potassium, manganese and copper with small amounts of iron content. Potassium is a nutrient that works in partnership with sodium to maintain electrolyte balance as well as healthy heart rate, blood pressure, nerve and muscle functions. When we are depleted in potassium, sodium levels tend to concentrate and increase in the body. High levels of sodium have been linked to conditions like high blood pressure, inflammation, arthritis and heart disease.
In addition to the fruits GABA increasing effects that have a relaxing quality on the nervous system, durian fruit is also high in the essential amino acid tryptophan which is necessary for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin. Tryptophan is regarded as natures sleeping pill because both serotonin and melatonin are two integral sleep inducing compounds helpful for alleviating insomnia. They likewise aid in relieving stress, anxiety, calming brain activity and boosting one's mood.
Durian fruit is known in native habitats as a sexually enhancing food that increases libido and sex drive in both men and women. The erotic sensual-looking fruit pods are a naturally unctuous, oja-building food source that is recognized throughout Indonesia for its qualities as an aphrodisiac. The common Indonesian saying is durian jatuh sarung naik or "the durian falls and the sarong comes up."
You can get fresh durian when it is in season in many tropical locations around the world. In other countries whole frozen fruit or pieces are available in most Asian markets, with whole durian usually costing between $12 to $20 depending on the size.
This fruit is a hard one to find fresh because they tend to spoil quite fast. Most are frozen for shipping reasons to preserve the quality and ripeness. Freezing them also stops the smell from leaking out, which is better for business. Organic durian is becoming more and more available, but generally most are not certified. Because the fruit is fairly pest and disease resistant, it is rarely ever sprayed.
As we mentioned, in some public areas of Southeast Asia, durian is actually illegal because of the often intense odor. We actually don't find the smell that bad, somewhat like over-ripe fruit. It is barely noticeable when the durian is whole, it isn't until it is opened that the "aroma" becomes quite potent.
Fresh durian fruit can be consumed right out of the husk as it is
naturally sweet with a creamy texture and, to some, a pleasant flavor. It can be mashed up and eaten with a spoon or stored in tightly sealed
serving size containers in the fridge or freezer for later use.
The fresh fruit is also delicious as an ice cream or can be preserved by drying it in the dehydrator for a chewy fruit snack. Although it is commonly used with other ingredients like milk, especially coconut milk, and sweeteners, it can be harder to digest this way for some people, causing possible flatulence or stomach upset.
If you are not sensitive to mixing it with other foods, it can also be used in shakes with other super fruits and superfoods or can even be blended up with coconut kefir.