Durian Tree: What You Need To Know Before Growing Your Own

Some may find the durian fruit to be one of the most polarizing fruits globally, as it elicits strong reactions. While some may find its intense aroma off-putting, others relish in its luxurious, velvety consistency and delightful taste.

But the fruit is only part of the story. The durian tree is a fascinating plant with a long and storied history in Southeast Asia where it has been cultivated for centuries.

What is durian fruit? Durian is a fruit native to Southeast Asia, known for its unique, strong smell and spiky exterior. It is often described as having a creamy, custard-like texture and a sweet, slightly savory flavor. Despite its divisive odor, durian is highly prized by many as a delicacy.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the durian tree and its odd-looking, smelly fruit.

Key Takeaways

  • Durian, the “king of fruits,” is a large, spiky fruit native to Southeast Asia and known for its strong, offensive odor and unique flavor.
  • Durian trees require warm, humid conditions to grow and can reach heights of more than 150 feet.
  • Durian fruit is high in nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber and may have potential health benefits like reducing inflammation and supporting heart health.
  • A ripe durian fruit can be identified by its yellow to brown skin, pungent aroma, and soft, custard-like flesh.
  • To eat durian, the fruit is typically cut open and the flesh is scooped out and eaten by hand or with a spoon.
  • Other fruits that are sometimes compared to durian include jackfruit, soursop, and breadfruit.

Durian Tree

Although many people aren’t familiar with the durian tree or its spiky fruit, it is highly regarded by aficionados worldwide.

Where Is Durian From?

The durian fruit is native to Southeast Asia, specifically Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It is also cultivated in other countries in the region, such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

The durian tree is believed to have originated in Borneo and Sumatra and has been cultivated in the region for centuries. Today, it remains an important part of the culinary and cultural traditions of many Southeast Asian countries.

Durian Tree Growing Conditions

Durian trees require a tropical climate with high temperatures, consistent rainfall, well-drained soils, and full sunlight to thrive.

The trees can grow up to 160 feet tall and take several years to begin bearing fruit.

The fruit itself grows directly on the trunk or branches of the tree and can weigh anywhere from 2 to 6.5 pounds.

While durian trees can be found in the wild, most durian production today comes from cultivated orchards.

If you were hoping to try your hand at growing your own, I hate to be the bearer of bad news… but it just isn’t worth it. They do not do well in most of North America unless you live in Hawaii.

Can You Grow a Durian Tree in a Container?

While durian trees can grow quite large, it is possible to grow them in a container with proper care and attention.

However, it is important to select a container large enough to accommodate the tree’s roots and provide adequate drainage. Regular pruning will help to keep it at a manageable size.

With the right conditions, a durian tree can thrive in a container and even produce fruit, though it may not reach the same size or yield as a tree grown in the ground.

Durian Tree Height

Durian trees can grow more than 150 feet tall in their natural habitat.

However, when grown in orchards or containers, they are typically pruned to a more manageable height of around 20-30 feet to facilitate harvesting and maintenance.

Durian Tree Leaves

The leaves of the durian tree are large, shiny, and dark green in color. They are elliptical in shape and can grow up to 10 inches in length.

The leaves are arranged alternately on the branches, each with a pointed tip and a slightly serrated edge.

They provide a lush canopy for the tree and are an important source of food for caterpillars and other insects. Durian leaves are also used in traditional medicine in some Southeast Asian cultures.

Durian Tree Root System

The durian tree has a shallow but extensive root system that allows it to absorb nutrients and water from the soil.

The roots spread out laterally to anchor the tree and provide stability. This makes it difficult to transplant or grow them in containers.

How To Grow a Durian Tree

  1. Location: Choose a sunny spot (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day) with well-drained soil.
  2. Plant a grafted seedling: Durian trees are usually grown from grafted seedlings rather than from seeds as this ensures that the tree will produce high-quality fruit. Purchase a grafted seedling from a reputable nursery or supplier.
  3. Water regularly: Durian trees require consistent moisture to thrive, especially during the first few years of growth. Water deeply once a week and more frequently during dry spells.
  4. Fertilize regularly: Durian trees are heavy feeders. Apply a balanced fertilizer every 2-3 months during the growing season.
  5. Prune as needed: Durian trees can grow quite large, so regular pruning is necessary to keep them at a manageable size and shape. Prune in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins.
  6. Harvest the fruit: Durian fruit typically takes 4-5 months to mature and will fall from the tree when ripe. Harvest the fruit carefully as the spiky exterior can be quite sharp.

Durian Fruit

A whole durian and one that has been opened resting on a wood table.

Whether you’re a huge fan or are off-put by the unpleasant smell, you have to admit that durian fruit is interesting.

Durian Fruit Appearance

The durian fruit is large and spiky with a distinctive oblong shape. It can weigh anywhere from 2 to 6.5 pounds and is covered in sharp, thorn-like spikes.

The exterior of the fruit is green to brown in color, and the spikes are typically yellowish-brown.

When ripe, the fruit splits open along natural seams to reveal creamy, yellowish-white flesh inside, which is divided into segments.

Each segment contains a large seed surrounded by a soft, custard-like pulp with a strong aroma and a sweet, slightly savory flavor.

How Does Durian Taste?

The taste of durian fruit is difficult to describe as it is quite unique and can vary depending on the variety and ripeness of the fruit.

Some people describe it as sweet, creamy, and custard-like with a hint of savory notes. Others find the taste to be pungent and slightly bitter with a strong odor and aftertaste.

What Does Durian Smell Like?

The smell of durian fruit is famously pungent and strong. Some people describe it as being similar to a combination of onion, garlic, and sweet fruit.

The odor can be overpowering and has been compared to the scent of a garbage bin or sweaty socks by those who dislike it.

Why Does Durian Smell So Bad?

The notorious durian odor is attributed to 50 different compounds, and Smithsonian Magazine explains that it is this “mixture of different chemicals that produces the fruit’s powerful stench.”

Why Does Durian Smell Good to Me?

Some people find the smell of durian fruit to be pleasant because it has a such a complex aroma. To some, the fruit has a sweet, fruity, and musky scent, which is sometimes compared to tropical fruits like mango.

Additionally, some people may associate the smell of durian with positive memories or cultural traditions as it is a popular fruit in many Southeast Asian countries.

Durian Fruit Benefits

Durian fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, and iron, and contains antioxidants, which may help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Additionally, durian fruit is high in fiber, which can support digestive health and help regulate blood sugar levels.

How To Tell if Durian Is Ripe

There are several ways to tell if a durian fruit is ripe. One method is to look at the color of the skin, which should be yellow to brown and have a slightly sunken appearance.

Another way to determine ripeness is to gently press on the spiky exterior — if it yields slightly under pressure, the fruit is likely ripe.

Additionally, a ripe durian fruit will emit a strong, pungent aroma characteristic of the fruit. When opened, the flesh should be soft and creamy with a yellowish-white color and a slight give when touched.

How To Eat Durian Fruit

To eat durian fruit, start by selecting a ripe fruit that has a slightly sunken appearance and emits a strong aroma.

Use a sharp knife to make a shallow cut around the circumference of the fruit, and then pry open the fruit using your hands or the knife.

Inside, you will find several large seeds surrounded by segments of creamy, custard-like flesh. Use your fingers or a spoon to scoop out the flesh and discard the seeds.

Some people prefer to eat durian chilled or frozen, while others enjoy it at room temperature. It is important to note that durian has a strong and distinct flavor, so it may be an acquired taste for some people.

Fruits Like Durian

Although durian is definitely a unique fruit, there are several others that are commonly compared to durian due to appearance, smell, or taste.

  • Jackfruit: Similar to durian but more bumpy than spiky.
  • Horned melon: Yellow to orange skin with spikes not as densely distributed as with durian.
  • Breadfruit: Green to yellowish skin with small bumps. Starchy flesh is similar to a potato in texture and taste.
  • Soursop: Light-green fruit with a flavor that is tangy, sour, and sweet all at once.
  • Spiny cucumber: Green fruit with soft spines. Tastes much like cucumber.

Final Thoughts

Durian is a unique and fascinating fruit that has captured the attention of people around the world.

Although the fruit’s smell can be off-putting to some, durian is high in nutrients and has potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Whether eaten fresh or used in recipes, durian is a versatile and flavorful fruit that is worth exploring for anyone interested in tropical fruit.