The Smell of Durian: Scientists Crack the Code

Durian, that unmistakable fruit in both sight and smell, is the subject of a new study published in Nature that zeroes in on what gives it its singular scent: “As durian ripens, volatile sulfur compounds contribute to its smell.”

Scientists mapped its genetic makeup, and in the process identified what gives it an aroma described as “sulfur and onions” as well as resembling “garlic, rottenness and cabbage.”

M previous Javanese guide’s words seemed more apt in describing the spiky, tropical fruit enjoyed by millions of South Asians:

It smells like hell, but tastes like heaven.”

Quartz writes about the research:

In July last year, scientists picked out popular varieties from around 30 species of the fruit, which is mainly cultivated in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The varieties selected included Musang King, with a turmeric-yellow interior and bitter taste that is enjoyed in Malaysia and Singapore, and Monthong, a sweeter type favored in Thailand. They then used different genetic sequencing techniques to draw genetic pictures of the fruit, identifying some 45,000 gene models.

First of all, I had no idea that there were different types of durian, though it makes sense. I’ve probably spent less time thinking about it than what color shoelaces to wear.

Second of all, wow — and kudos to the scientists for their stinky breakthrough, though I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would devote that much time and effort studying the odoriferous fruit.

4 thoughts on “The Smell of Durian: Scientists Crack the Code

  1. That was the exact same quote our guide used! I tried it, (my partner declined). I’ve just posted my photos of Sumatra, but sadly, not shots of this strange fruit, or anyone trying it!

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