Durio zibethinus is the durian most commonly sold throughout Southeast Asia. This is the durian that is banned in hotels and on subways, and that has grounded planes with its infamous odor. It is the only durian species widely cultivated and purposefully bred. It has adapted to different climates and rain patterns, and changed to fit the cultural desires of people all over Southeast Asia. This durian, above all others, is the fascinating King of Fruit.
|Hor Lor. Penang Malaysia|
Odor is its claim to fame. Overripe, rotten or old durians can smell as pungently foul as a high school boy’s gym locker after an American football game, Ax included. But within that stench are highlights of the best French patisserie mixed with caramel cake and vanilla perfume. As a durian lover, I very rarely smell anything but my favorite scent of all: durian.
Distribution and Season
|Village durian, Sri Lanka|
Chinese: Liu Lian, Lau Lin
Vietnam: Sâù riêng
Thailand: Thurian, Rian
Philippines: Dulian (Bagobo, Lanao, Maguindanao), Duyen (Sulu Archipelago), Duryen; (Tagalog), Duryan (Iloko)
Indonesia: Duren, (Java, Bali and Lombok), Duriang (Sulawesi), Tarutung (Batak, Sumatra), Dereyan (Aceh, Sumatra)
Borneo: Dian, Durian Puteh
Scientific Name: Durio Zibethinus Murray
Durio zibethinus is so widely known and has been so often written about that there are already a lot of stories about how it was named floating around the internet. I can promise that at least half of these are at least half wrong.
visited Sumatra in 1421 looking for aromatic spices and incense. He found durian, but what he thought of its aroma is not recorded.
Niccolo de Conti didn’t write anything about his journeys, and no one
would know anything about him if he hadn’t gotten in trouble with the
Pope. His punishment was to recount his adventures to the Papal
This sentence was Europe’s first introduction to the durian: “Here is a greene fruite named Duriano,
of the bignesse of Cucumbers. And there be some of them lyke long
Orengies or Lemans, of diverse savours and taste, as like butter, lyke
milke, and like curdes.” (On the Vicissitudes of Fortune).
That actually doesn’t have anything to do with how Durio zibethinus got it’s name. I just thought it was interesting.
The story of Durio zibethinus begins with a man with really bad luck, as most of these durian stories seem to do (does this seem like a weird coincidence to anyone else?). German-born Georg Eberhard Rumf was hired in 1657 to study the plants of the Western Indonesia for the Dutch East Indies Company. He’s often known by the Latin name Rumphius.
He spent the next 30 years of his life documenting the plants (including durian) and their traditional uses in a 6 volume handwritten and illustrated manuscript that was lost twice: once to fire, and once sunk by pirates. During the process, he went blind from glaucoma and lost his wife and child in an earthquake. His masterpiece, Herbarium Amboinense, finally arrived in the Netherlands in 1696, but the Dutch East Indies Company feared it had too much information in it and refused to publish it. Rumf died without seeing his life’s work published.
|Third times the charm for Rumphius. 1741.|
|The first mention of Durio zibethinus in Systema Vegetabilium, 1747|
Unlike a lot of plant names, which are weird
latinizations of people names or Latin adjectives like “smelly,”
Linnaeus didn’t make up “zibetha.” Civet cats are found throughout Africa,
and they were no stranger to the Romans, who used their odoriferous secretions to make perfume. Zibetha is the word Rumf uses to talk about the civet cat.
Growing Durio Zibethinus
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