In 2022, I think I was sent a video at least 200 hundred times showing a Thai man tossing down thornless durians and catching them barehanded like American footballs.
The video was everywhere.
And being in Thailand, I decided to find out who he was and what his thornless durians are all about.
About the Thornless Durian
In 2021, Panupong Pramualsuk, nicknamed “New,” decided to play around with creating thornless durians by knocking off all the thorns when the trees were young.
When the fruits were mature, he uploaded a video of himself tossing the thornless durians around. The video went viral.
So in 2022, he decided to do it again – but this time he did all the fruits in all 3 trees. The video he posted on Facebook garnered over 19 million views.
Is this a new variety of durian?
No. Khun New actually states in the viral videos (in Thai) that the variety he is cutting open is Puangmanee.
How did Khun New remove the thorns?
When the durian are small, baby-sized fruitlets, their thorns are still softish and can be brushed away. As the durian grows, it heals and scars over the missing thorns, creating a smoother shell.
However, he decided not to remove the thorns around the stem (the “crown”) and also at the tip as he was worried this would damage the developing fruit flesh inside. So the “thornless” durians still have remnants of thorns!
Is he the first person to make a thornless durian?
No. Kids like to make thornless durians for fun – and grown-ups too. You’ll find these pranksters now and again, whether they’re having a joke on a parent or just brushing off the thorns because they’re bored.
Most of the time, people will do only one durian at a time.
What Khun New has done differently is to take the time to make all the durian on an entire tree thornless, giving the appearance that the tree naturally makes thornless durian.
Are there real naturally-occuring thornless durians?
Yes. There are durians that grow without thorns due to genetic mutations. They happen rarely. I’ve personally only seen two – one in the Philippines and one in Indonesia.
Frustratingly, when people take grafts of thornless durians, they often grow with thorns.
What does the thornless durian taste like?
The one we received from Khun New was a Monthong. He did a nice job of picking it at full maturity so it had a really nice yellow color and a denser, nuttier taste than most of the Monthong we find in the market.
But it still tasted just like Monthong.
Is there any practical reason to make a thornless durians?
Anyone who works with durian has many cuts and scratches on their hands, wrists, and feet/legs from the thorns whisking by while being handled.
In Thailand, when durians are being harvested they are dropped from up to 30 feet toward a catcher who swoops the durian up in a burlap sack to prevent it from smashing on the ground. If they miss, they can hit by the durian. If they are looking up, the durian might hit them in the face. Because of this there have actually been studies done on how to prevent Ocular Injuries By Durian Fruit.
And finally, removing the thorns makes the durian a lot lighter weight and gives it a really thin skin. This could potentially be useful in reducing costs for transport during export.
So what do you think? Will you try making thornless durians?
How to visit Suan Talay Chan Durian Farm
This farm is unusual for being extremely close to the beach, in Nai Yai Am district, Chanthaburi province.
You can contact New on his farm’s Facebook Page