Philippines Durio Graveolens

While enjoying our last week of Sri Lanka, Rob and I are gearing up for our venture into Borneo, the island where durian originated. Around 30 species of durian can be found in Borneo, including up to 9 edible species (there is some debate over species differentiation). Our goal is to taste them all.

Many people have been emailing me about the picture of the red and yellow fleshed durians I posted on our facebook page while we were in the Philippines. So this post is dedicated to durio graveolens. I can't wait to taste them again in Borneo!

A few days before leaving the Philippines, Rob and I finally got an interview with Dr. Virgilio Loquias, the durian expert at the Bureau of Plant Industries. We were really excited to learn more about durian varieties and hybridization programs in the Philippines, and clear up a few mysteries. Dr. Loquias is currently working on creating a germplasm of fruit varieties. So far, he has collected 40 durian varieties of 2 species, including graveolens

Durio graveolens is entirely different species than the typically cultivated durio zibethinus. I thought graveolens only occurred naturally in Borneo, but Dr. Loquias told us that there are several varieties endemic to Palawan, the Filipine island where he collected his samples. I later read that graveolens can sometimes be found in peninsular Malaysia around Terrenganu, as well as on some islands of Indonesia and even southern Thailand, where it is called Thurian-rakka.

We visited Dr. Loquias at just the right time. As we strolled around the BPI's durian orchard we saw hundreds of downed graveolens. They were so much more colorful than the normal brown or camouflage-colored durians, looking like fallen Christmas ornaments littered around the base of the trees. Rob was in sheer heaven. He and Dr. Loquias dived in, cracking open several at a time. I hung back at first, uncertain.

If the odor of normal durian is considered nauseating, graveolens takes it up a notch to projectile vomit. Through the nose. I actually like the smell of durian,  but even so the scent wafting out of the durian orchard that day was overwhelming. Like an overheated dumpster in New York, sprinkled with powdered sugar and doused in cheddar cheese.  Literally translated, durio graveolen actually means "the smelly durian".  That's saying something!

Graveolens are much smaller than the average durian, weighing less than 1 kilo. The thorns are sharper and longer, a series of needles wrapped around a bright green or yellow exterior. Like the zibethinus, they fall to the ground when ripe, although one variety endemic to Palawan opens on the tree and drops the flesh. Dr. Loquias let us taste this one. It had a neon yellow exterior and bright red flesh, which was hard and nutty. Dr. Loquias said he likes to eat it with a bit of salt and sugar.

In Borneo, durio graveolens has so many names it can get really confusing. Sometimes it's simply called durian merah, red durian, which is in my opinion a useless identifier as many other species and varieties also have red flesh, and some graveolens have orange or yellow flesh. Here are a few more common names: Alau, Dujen, Durian alau, Durian angang, Durian daun dungoh, Durian hutan, Durian pipit, Lai bengang, Merang kunyit, Pasang, Tabela, Taula, Tongkai. Each species of durian has a similarly long list of colloquial titles - I'm going to have to carry a notebook with lists of names just to know which durian people are talking about!

The actual edible portion of a graveolens is very small, with even thinner flesh than a kampung or durian ban. This is why it is has not yet reached the commercial market, although some farms in Sarawak and Kalimantan do specialize in graveolens and several graveolens clones have been selected by research facilities. In the Philippines, graveolens will be used as a disease resistant rootstock.

He had two other graveolens in his orchard, an orange and a yellow fleshed one. Both were amazing, although we agreed the yellow-fleshed one was creamier and smoother. The flesh is extremely thick and slightly waxy, like the texture of cheddar cheese, while it tasted like bubblegum rolled in blue cheese. I liked it, but felt a bit overwhelmed by the density and flavor. By the time we were full, all three of us had a bright orange coating of waxy flesh on our lips.

Tomorrow we go to Sabah, and will be hitting Kalimantan in November and Sarawak in December for their durian season! I look forward to tasting some of the various graveolens varieties, as well as some of the other species we hope to find in Kalimantan and Sabah, such as durio dulcis, the sweetest of the durians.

Have you tasted durio graveolens?



  1. hi, yes i have and i would buy it.
    it doesnt fix my durian craving completely though, so i would want a normal durian (arancillo, puat, Cob)to enjoy as a wonderful contrast.
    where is this guy located? in Davao area? does he have email? thanks,

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