Regarded by many people in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, strong odor, and formidable thorn-covered husk. The fruit can grow as large as 30 centimeters (12 in) long and 15 centimeters (6 in) in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms (2 to 7 lb). Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the color of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species.
The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and raw sewage. The persistence of its odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.
The Durian, native to Southeast Asia has been known to the Western world for about 600 years. The nineteenth-century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace famously described its flesh as “A rich custard highly flavored with almonds”.
Durian tree starts bearing fruits after four or five years after plantation. The tree grows up to 50 meters in height depending on the species.
Durian is a seasonal fruit; its season lasts typically from June until August, which coincides with that of the other tropical specific fruits like Mangosteen, Jackfruit, and Mango.
Health benefits of Durian fruit
Durian, like other tropical fruits such as Banana, Avocado, and Jackfruit, is rich in energy, minerals and vitamins. 100 g fresh fruit provides 147 calories.
The fruit is made of soft, easily digestible flesh made of simple sugars like fructose and sucrose that when eaten replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly. Though it contains a relatively high amount of fats among fruits, it is free from saturated fats and cholesterol.
The Durian fruit is a good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (about 33% of RDA). Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
The fruit is an excellent source of health benefiting B-complex groups of vitamins; a rare feature among fruits, such as niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential for the body as it requires them from external sources to replenish.
Further, it also contains a good amount of minerals like manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.
Fresh Durian fruit is a very rich source of potassium. Potassium is an important electrolyte of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Additionally, it also contains high levels of essential amino acid, tryptophan (also known as “nature’s sleeping pill”) which in the body metabolizes into serotonin and melatonin; these neuro-chemicals have important functions like sleep induction and in the treatment of epilepsy.
But beyond its delectableness, Durian boasts of a host of other health-promoting goodness.
Good for the skin (Vitamin C – 80%)
Vitamin C is an in important factor in making collagen, an important protein found in the skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It plays a vital role in wound healing, and every cup of durian contains 80% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C.
Aids in digestion (Thiamin – 61%)
Durian is brimming with thiamin, is rich in dietary fiber, B vitamin which promotes a normal appetite and helps produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach for proper digestion of food and a good laxative. The fiber content helps to protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time and as well as binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon.
Regulates blood sugar levels (Manganese – 39%)
It can aid in regulating blood sugar levels through the help of its rich manganese content.
Fights depression (Vitamin B6 – 38%)
It is packed with vitamin B6. Lack of vitamin B6 in the body may lead to depression. Studies have shown that depressed patients are low in vitamin B6, one of the nutrients essential in producing serotonin, a neorotransmitter chemical that affects mood.
Avoids and relieves constipation (Fiber – 37%)
The king of fruits is rich in fiber, a complex carbohydrate which absorbs water and expands in the digestive tract to gently and effectively speed up the process of moving bulk through the system.
Maintains healthy bones (Potassium – 30%)
It is also rich in potassium. When talk is about bone health, most would only focus on calcium. But potassium is also a key nutrient for healthy bones. It conserves calcium by preventing too much from being excreted in the urine.
Combats migraine headaches (Riboflavin – 29%)
Are you suffering from migraine? Munching on durian might help ease the pain. Riboflavin is another B vitamin found in durian which helps and is used to treat migraine headaches.
Helps maintain a healthy thyroid (Copper – 25%)
When it comes to thyroid health, iodine is probably the only nutrient that most people associate it with. The trace mineral copper also plays a role in thyroid metabolism, especially in hormone production and absorption.
Promotes healthy pregnancy (Folate – 22%)
Durian is also loaded with folate, one of the must-have nutrients for pregnant and planning to get pregnant women. Folate is essential for normal tissue growth and protect against brain and spine problems for the developing baby.
Relaxes nerves and muscles (Magnesium -18%)
Prevent muscle cramps through the help of durian which is a good source of magnesium, which acts as a chemical gate blocker in nerve cells. Over active nerve cells can result in over contraction of muscles.
Selection and Storage
The Durian fruit is native to Southeast Asia. It is sold in markets all over the Asian world and is also imported in the United States and Europe. People have differences in preferences regarding ripeness, while some like slightly ripened, tart flavored Durians while others might like to cherish over ripened. Usually, ripe fruit that falls off the tree is collected and put to sell.
In the store, choose a Durian fruit with firm stalk. Outside their native habitat, it is one of the expensive fruits; some of its varieties like D24 (Sultan) is in high demand and commands higher price. The fruit can also be stored in the refrigerator for few days.
Outer surface of the Durian fruit is fully covered with sharp spikes, capable of causing cuts; it is therefore, one should be careful while handling it. Cut open the fruit longitudinally the same way you do in Jackfruits to expose the underlying creamy yellow pulp. Slice the pulp to remove seeds.
Durian fruit is used as a flavor base in a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malay candy, ice kachang, dodol, biscuits, etc.
It is also used in the preparation of ice-cream, milkshakes, Yule logs and cappuccino.
Red-fleshed durian is traditionally added to sayur, an Indonesian soup made from fresh water fish.
Ikan brengkes, a fish cooked in a durian-based sauce, traditional in Sumatran islands in Indonesia.
Unripe durians may be cooked as a vegetable in variety of dishes.
Durian seeds, which taste similar to jack fruit seeds or yam can be eaten boiled or roasted.