MANILA, OCTOBER 27, 2003 (BULLETIN) By Lynda B. Valencia - Durian is welcomed by most people who have been adventurous enough to taste it. The exotic fruit is filled with an excellent taste that those who have tried it had asked for more.

No other fruit has been cursed or praised in the same breath. “It smells like hell and tastes like heaven,” said people who have tasted it, summing up the fruit’s bane and boon. The stronger the odor, the more savory the taste.

Davao City has become famous for its rich and tasty durian. Locals and foreigners alike look forward to the “Kadayawan sa Dabao” every September, which is the peak season of durian.

There are also semi-processed durians with the pulp removed and sold in polystyrene containers for out-of-town buyers who do not have the time to undergo difficulties in sneaking the fresh fruit inside a plane.

Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, who never missed eating durian whenever he goes to Davao said, “when we look at durian in a world context we are looking at a fruit that is widely appreciated in Asia but little known yet in the United States or Europe.”

During the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in Bangkok, Thailand, although President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s attention was focused on terrorism and global trade talks, her appetite appears to be focused on something else – the notoriously foul-smelling durian.

The President developed an early liking for the fruit – banned in many buildings, airplanes and other enclosed areas in Southeast Asia because of its offensive smell – in her hometown in Iligan City.

So she planned to hold a Durian Party for those who went with her at the end of the APEC Summit. But she doesn’t have to wait for the APEC to end as the Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hosted a lunch at the swank Oriental Hotel for the Southeast Asian heads of state attending the summit.

Guess what they had for dessert after a sumptuous meal – a durian ice cream.

Because of its sulphuric content, the durian emits a lingering odor (especially if artificially ripened) which harbors gross associations but vanishes at sampling.

Durian is a fruit of “durio sibe thinus” a tree off the family of Bombacacae which thrives in the deep forests of Mindanao and other Southeast Asian regions – Malaysia, Sumatra, Indonesia, and Borneo.

It grows up to 80 feet tapering leaves, yellowish green flowers and somewhat resembles the elm. Each mature tree bears a thousand fruits every peak season (August to September).

Durian thrives best in well-drained, rich, deep and moist soil having sufficient organic matter. The tree grows well in areas with more or less a uniform rainfall distribution throughout the year.

The external appearance of the fruit varies from green to greenish brown and from bronze to brownish-yellow or gray. Some fruits are short-stocky or slender and sharp, while others are thorn less or “spineless.”

The fruit is round and about six to eight inches in diameter, approaching the coconut in size and weight. A hard spiny shell covers the inner glutinous pulp that is neatly filed in five ovate, seeded compartments.

The much-prized durian is fast gaining importance because of the growing demand for the fruit by home industries engaged in pastry and candy-making and whose products make their way to foreign markets.

The seeds are eaten roasted and the unique fruits are boiled eaten as vegetable. The unique smell is the durian’s overwhelming characteristic which, fortunately, limits the circle of its devotees. The fruit is sensitive to other odors like bonfire, smoke and insecticides.

It has several unique characteristics, such as falling by itself when ripe and only at night. Another durian trait is its own version of a “self-destruct” mechanism, its ability to remove its own shell.

After eating durian, it is advisable to put some water into the empty durian shell and wash your hands in it. This removes the smell. Try anything else – detergents, or what-have-you – but all will be useless – the smell will remain just as pungent.

A novice in eating durian should consult an expert before opening the fruit, otherwise, he would only mess things up by “wounding”, it, or worse, hurting himself with the sharp spikes.

The expert knows the secret lines where to strike a sharp bolo to open up the fruit, the thick rind has to be hit on the right spot, or else, you won’t get this prickly and smelly fruit to open. (PNA)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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