About Durian Forest Garden Banyuwangi
We arrived to Songgon Village with fingers crossed for the famous Banyuwangi Red-Striped Durian.
Through Google I’d identified several farms in Songgon Village with gorgeous photos of durians marbled pink, salmon, and red, like a candy cane in a shell.
Much, much anticipation when we arrived at the small village in the foothill of Mount Raung 🤩
The farm is normally accessible to cars by a narrow brick-paved road, but on the day that we visited the bridge over the nearby stream was being repaired so we met Risma on the roadside and walked into the farm via a detour.
I kind of think this detour was better. We passed over a burbling stream on a bouncing bamboo bridge, wound up a jigsawed staircase and onto the shady brick road, rimmed on one side with rice farms and trees on the other.
It was almost stunningly quiet, with little noise of traffic from the roadside. Just the hum of the cicadas, the cackling stream, the stiff rustling of durian leaves in the wind, the chitchat of women passing by carrying bags of rice…
…and the interval BANG of boys with fire crackers scaring away birds in the rice fields 🤣
An Organic, Community-Run Collective
Risma led us to a shady courtyard with a small seating area for durian-munching guests and introduced us to the other farm owners present.
The farm is a collective – owned by 8 members – and opened 3 years ago as an Agrotourism Center. It’s been doing well.
Maybe it’s the instant feeling of a peace that you feel when you enter the garden. It’s a sleepy, stable kind of place, an intercropped, multi-storied canopy with over 100 durian trees aged 20 to 70 years old. It’s a place you can imagine a succession of many generations puttering about under those same trees.
And the community has decided to stay organic.
A traditional fertilizer in Java: is fermented rice husk.
During the rice harvest, the thin, papery husks are stamped off the harder rice berry and then swept into bags to ferment.
Inside the bags, the straw-colored husks turn a dark brown and break down, becoming like a fluffy potting soil that the team distributes around the trees.
Coconut Husk and Goat Poo
The other fertilizer used at Songgon Durian Forest Garden is a combination of goat manure and coconut husks blended with a common agricultural probiotic called EM4.
The 3 ingredients are fermented for 3 months until they breakdown into a rich, dark soil that feels wonderful to any gardener worth their green thumb.
After touring the garden, we eagerly asked if it was possible we could taste a Banywuangi Red Durian today.
Unfortunately, the answer was: “Come back next year.”
The farm has only 5 trees of red-pink-or-marble durians, and 2021 just happened to be a super rainy, windy year that knocked off ALL of the young red durian tree flowers 😭
Even the other durian trees had been affected by the lousy weather. Harmadi estimated that compared to a normal year’s harvest, the trees produced only 35% of the normal amount in the 2021 season.
But, some of their favorite durians did produce, and we had opportunity to try 3 delicious durians while making plans to come back to this Garden of Peace in 2022.
This durian was a surprise. It’s shiny grey-yellow flesh looked invitingly supple, each piece big like a durian from Thailand.
But when I picked up a piece, expecting my fingers to sink into a voluptuous ivory-colored fold, I found that the durian flesh was firm, even a little crunchy in some parts.
It was sweeter than I expected, but tasted like the durian may have been underripe when it fell off the tree. Another sign of the sad affects of rainstorms during durian season.
Our next durian breakfast choice was Si Kambing, a very pretty cream-white durian with again, pretty chunky pieces.
The texture on this was dreamy creamy, rich and smooth, with a very sweet, almost strawberry-acid flavor like strawberries n’ cream dessert.
I have never loved strawberries with cream, but Richard said with content,
“This is more my style of durian. Definitely berry.”
Durian Si Ketan
Lastly, we went for Harmadi’s favorite: Si Ketan, which means “sticky rice.”
And this one was more my kind of durian. Dense and sticky, it was not terribly sugar-sweet but all about that earthy, salty, coconutty, texture-rich sensation of a truly bitter-sweet durian.
Arancillo fans out there might be on the lookout for a Songgon Si Ketan.
Telunjuk Dewa Raung Waterfall
After our durian feast, Risma was kind enough to show us to a nearby waterfall. Or – we thought was nearby.
The waterfall is only 6km away as the crow flies but took 40 minutes by car because there is no direct road.
To get here, you’ll pass through a small village advertising itself as a basecamp for Mt. Raung.
After the village, the road turns to gravel. Continue on for about 3km until you get to the car park, where you’ll need to pay a IDR 20,000 entry ticket.
From the carpark, stairs lead you into a gorgeous riverine gorge, filled with fields of watercress, or air selada.
Crossing the river, there’s a small gravel path leading to the waterfall.
The water here is icy cold, running down from Mt. Raung, but there are several pools for swimming anyway.
Durian season is unpredictable. Whatever durians you see us experiencing in this blog may or may not be available when you get the opportunity to go. You may find things I never get to taste.
But that’s partly why it’s called Durian Hunting.
May the thrill of the chase go on.
We hope to update this post in the future with Banyuwangi Red Durians! 🤞🏻
Find Songgong Durian Forest Garden Collective
Durian Forest Garden Songgon is located in Banyuwangi, the eastern-most province of Java Island, Indonesia. From here, you can look down the road and see the hazy outline of Bali in the far distance across the water.
There is no public transit in this area, so it’s best you have your own transport or hire a driver from your hotel.