Durio kutejensis is the favorite durian of Brunei. With its pineapple-cream brilliantly orange flesh, it’s no wonder that this is the only wild durian species widely cultivated. It’s fruity aroma is generally considered pleasant, and local durian authorities suggest that this may be the durian most suitable to those unfamiliar with durian or who just can’t take normal durian funk.
I thought it was just so cute. From the top, it looks like a corn-yellow five petaled flower because each of the seed-bearing sections are so swollen and pronounced. It’s typically small; the largest fruit weighing in at less than 1 kilo. The thorns are short and nubby and the shell is unusually thin, making it relatively easy to break into with bare hands.
The flesh is dry and a little bit waxy, ranging in colors from pale orange-yellow to a deep, sunset red. In flavor, it’s a whole different ball game. It completely lacks the savory, garlicky onion element that turns some people away (and drives others closer for more). To us, it tasted light and strawberry-mango fruity, like an avocado infused with the artificial flavoring of a tropical gummy bear.One noteworthy detail is that, unlike other durians, the flowers stamens stay attached to the fruit as it ripens. By the time the fruit drops, the stamens are just five long black strings attached to the stem. I thought this looked kind of gross but was pretty cool.
Durio kutejensis is native to Borneo. It can now be found in other regions of the world, most noticeably Java, although the trees do not seem to fruit well. A claim in 1983 of finding Durio kutejensis growing wild in Turkey has largely been dismissed.
This durian is extremely popular in Brunei, where it fetches a high price, and the regions surrounding the tiny sultanate are flooded with the fruit. Rob and I saw a lot of Durio kutejensis in the Miri and the Bintulu region. I’ve also heard that it is common in Balikpapan and Samarinda in eastern Kalimantan.
Like all jungle durians, Durio kutejensis has a variety of names depending on the region.
Here are some that we found: durian pulu (Brunei), durian nyekak (Batu Niah and region south of Miri), durian lai, durian merah, durian lukak (Miri).
Others have mentioned: papakin (Banjar) rian isu (Iban) durian kuning (Brunei – we didn’t find this name here, but someone did. It means “yellow durian.”) nyekak (Iban) ukan pakan (Iban) ukak (Miri) Paken (Punan Malinu, East Kalimantan), Durian Utan (Malay for “Jungle Durian”)
The name “kutejensis” was given by a German botanist with the lovely germanic name Justus Carl Hasskarl (I love names that rhyme! Why don’t we do this in America?). Hasskarl was working in the Botanical Garden in Bogor, Java, reorganizing taxonomic families.
Back in the day, the organization of durian species was an absolute mess. Linnaean taxonomy was just starting to be adopted, and botanists around the world were scrambling to give names to things to fit into the new set of rules.
That’s why dear Mr. Carl Hasskarl gave our durian the name Lahia kutejensis in 1858. I don’t know what a “Lahia” is, and apparently neither did anybody else. It was the only plant in the imaginary genus, and as soon as somebody smarter realized that the little durian belonged in Durio the whole Lahia thing was dropped and disappeared for good.
Almost. Even today, if you look up Durio kutejensis on Wikipedia it will tell you it is synonymous with Lahia kutejensis. Although the name was changed, Mr. Hasskarl continues to get credit, so that all botanical literature lists the durian like this: “Durio kutejensis (Hassk). Becc.” That’s quite the title, but then, it is a very special durian.
The Becc. part is the second guy to get involved with naming Durio kutejensis. Odoardo Beccari is considered one of the greatest botanists of the 20th century, and with reason. The man spent three years climbing around the jungles of Borneo looking for new plants. He’s responsible for naming eight species of durian, including the reclassification of Durio Kutejensis. Why he kept the kutejensis part, I have no idea. Despite my best efforts, I could not discover what “kutejensis” means or what inspired old Carl Hasskarl to give it to a durian.
Durio kutejensis seeds
Growing Durio Kutejensis
The Sarawak Department of Agriculture
recommends 3 varieties of Durio kutejensis and has registered them under
the identification tag “DK.” You can find more information by following
the link above.
This durian prefers clay rich soils in the hillsides of mixed lowland dipterocarp forests. It seems to be slightly more tolerant of higher elevation, growing up to 800 meters altitude.
The seeds are easily recognizable. While most seeds are tan, these seeds are a mahogany brown, slightly smaller and more ellipsoid, and very smooth. The germination rate is similar to other durian species, about 85% over a ten-day period.
photo by the Sarawak DoA
The most remarkable thing about the non-edible parts of Durio kutejensis is its flowers. The flowers are a gushing blood red, a splash of insanely brilliant color on an otherwise drab, camouflage-colored tree.