Durian in Cambodia
Durian or in Khmer we call ‘Turen’ (ទុរេន), is so called as ‘The King of Fruit’ because of the popularity of this fruit by southeast Asian people. It has an extremely pungent smell and an amazing sweet taste. Some people regard durian as fragrant, while other find the smell overpowering and offensive. Thus durian has become a fruit that was not allowed to bring into hotels in the region.
Durian used to be grown with seeds of trees bearing superior quality fruit, but modern technology in planting has changed to be propagated by grafting. It’s a strictly tropical tree and would stop growing when the temperature drops below 22ºC. It’s a seasonal fruit, the season of durian in Cambodia is between May to July. Durian trees are large, growing to 25-50 meters high depend on species. The leaves are evergreen elliptic to oblong and 10-18cm long. The flower grow out as clusters with 3-30 flowers together on large branches directly on the trunk. Durian trees become mature and bear fruit after 4-5 years. After pollination, the fruit need three months to grow. It shapes oblong or round with numerous sharp thorns on the husk, which can cause drawing blood. The color of the husk can be green or brown, depend on species.
Durian are left to fall from its tree as this is a sign that it is ripe. So wear a hardhat when you entering durian farm to avoid serious injury cause by falling durian. However, with grafting durian trees are not growing too high. So the fruits are cut from the tree and allow ripen while waiting to be sold. The durian that fall off the tree continues to ripen for two or four days, but after that it’s considered overripe.
In Cambodia, Kampot is considered home of durian. There is a traffic circle in Kep town, Kampot provincial, built with sculpture of many kinds of tropical fruits in Kampot. And durian is the biggest. However, in Kampong Cham province also have got the suitable soil and climate condition for durian plantation. Kampot durian is mot famous due to its natural smell and flavor with cultivation area of 750 hectares, mainly in Teuk Chhu district. One hectare can grow 100 trees with 30-50 fruits harvested every season. The Kampot durian is small compare to Kampong Cham durian, one fruit weight from 2kg-6kg. The cover is brown when ripe, its flesh is pale yellow and soft. The taste is special with richly creamy and very sweet. Kampong Cham durian are bigger in fruit, up to 8kg per fruit. The color of the husk is green, the flesh is bright yellow, crisper (less soft), and less creamy. I usually can eat a lot of Kampong Cham durian then Kampot durian, because it’s less creamy and less sweet.
Kampot durian are sold to country wide and also exported to Vietnam. During the harvest time, 1kg cost around 6,000 – 8,000 Riels. Would like to buy durian? It’s easy! It can be found in every market and roadside. During August there are less durian from Kampot but still has a lot from Kampong Cham. Anyway the price at this time is up to 12,000 Riels to 15,000 Riels per kilogram.
How to choose a good durian fruit
A big, solid stem is a sign of freshness. So when buying durian in a whole fruit, must examine the quality of the stem. Or you can shake the fruit whether you can hear the sound of the seeds moving inside, it’s the sign that the durian is very ripe.
The flesh of durian can be eaten raw and used to flavour a wide variety of savory and sweet edibles. In Cambodia, durian are mainly eat fresh as fruit. And there is a kind of dessert called ‘Bay dom nerb turen’, it’s sticky rice with durian paste. Beside these, there are durian ice-cream, durian cracker, durian mooncake, durian milkshakes, etc. The seeds can also be eaten when cooked, tastes like yam, but stickier.
Some health benefit of durian
Durian contains high level of sugar, good source of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, a good source of raw fat. It also contains high level of iron which helps the white blood cells in our body make specific chemicals process that kill off the yeast infections. Amino acid, Vitamin B, C and E are also found in durian. Especially Tryptophan, a kind of amino acids, which help maintain serotonin level in the body. People with low serotonin levels tend to have short tempers and suffer from depression. Recent researches have claimed that durian can help lower cholesterol and cleanse the blood, cure jaundice and alleviate fevers.