Zero gravity durian

In the name of science, people are willing to do crazy experiments. Like crazy expensive experiments. Nothing is too much in the name of science.

The Thai space agency sent a vacuum packed package if Durians into space for a few minutes. Accompanying the Stinky orbiting astronaut were some packets of jasmine rice. (Here’s the article).

In fact, it’s so ridiculous a proposition that I wonder how they justified the cost. Well, here’s the rationale.

β€œIn the future we want astronauts to be able to eat Thai food,” said a spokesperson for Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA).

Is this Thai astronauts eating Thai food or other astronauts eating thai food? Weird. The thai food that springs to my mind isn’t a packet of dehydrated durian. More like a great phad thai, a som tum salad or a fabulous Tom yum soup.

Any other reason?

β€œWe want to see whether there are any physical changes after it returns to earth, for example it might get smaller, or cracked.”

Err ok... so you want to see if vacuum packaging works well in space or if freeze dried durian may dehydrate some more?

I just don’t get it. Let me know if you’ve heard the results.

Sydney Durian Alert Update

Okay I did a bit more reading and here are the supermarkets that will be distributing the durian. No prices mentioned but I reckon it might be pricey.

V Plus Supermarkets in Campsie and Liverpool.

Kingsford Oriental and Asian stores in Cabramatta

They will be stocking D24s and the Raja Musang (Mao San Wang).

So if you’re walking by and expecting the wafting smell of durians… I doubt you’ll be smelling any as it’ll likely be well packed!


From Bernama News:

MELBOURNE, Oct 30 (Bernama) — Southeast Asian customers waited with eager anticipation as the latest shipment of “Raja Musang”, the “King of Durian”, hit some Asian stores in Sydney this week.

Leading importer of this product to Australia, Weng Sam, director of Rockman Pty Ltd, one of Australia’s largest Asian importers and wholesalers, said he was expecting “great things from this deliciously succulent product”.

He has already started distributing it to his Asian grocery suppliers around Australia.

This is his second container load of durians valued at about A$70,000.

His first shipment comprised D24 and Raja Musang but the more expensive Raja Musang proved to be well-received and sold out within a couple of weeks.

“I initially brought in more D24 than Raja Musang, because it was cheaper and there was a demand for it in the market. But once buyers tasted Raja Musang, they said forget about it! No more D24,” Weng Sam said.

“There is no other durian that can beat the taste of Raja Musang!” he said. “But the only problem, of course, is the price. It fluctuates.”

But that does not seem to concern Australian customers.

“One excited lady said her husband did not care how costly durian was. He was just anxious to buy it as soon as it was available in stores and would even pay A$100 for one durian,” Weng San said.

“Another lady Elizabeth Chan remarked when she heard about the Malaysian durians in Sydney, it ‘light up my life’,” he said.

Johnny Wan, a Malaysian in Sydney sent his sister to get two cartons of the fruit. He said: “I don’t care how much it cost… I don’t want to miss it this time.”

Malaysians and Singaporeans have been contacting the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Sydney office to find out which stores stocked the delicious Raja Musang.

For Sydney Matrade commissioner Ong Yew Chee, it was one fine afternoon where a phone call from Weng Sam started the Raja Musang entry into Sydney.

Weng San was looking for a supplier and Ong arranged a meeting with Hernan Corporation in Kuala Lumpur.

Rockman is grateful to Ong for the connection which has been working closely with Sydney Matrade to get more Malaysian products into Australia, including Dewina’s products, London Biscuits and Yik Khang Frozen Foodstuffs.

Raja Musang durian is being sold in several Asian supermarkets in Sydney such as V Plus Supermarkets in Campsie and Liverpool, Kingsford Oriental and Asian stores in Cabramatta where it has met with enormous success even among the Vietnamese community.

Although it has been under a week since this King of Durian been unloaded in Sydney, already a third of the container has a been sold, with new retailers in negotiations with Weng Sam, to get their orders in.



2 Durian Saplings are Thriving in Bristol

Durian Sapling in Bristol

3 year old Durian Sapling in a Bristol Flat

Thank you Chris for sending us a photo of your durian sapling (btw, definition: sapling = young tree) which is absolutely beautiful.

Notice that its grown very tall (would you say 1 ft a year Chris?) and the leaves are very well formed and lush green.

A note from Chris on his Stinky Spike:

“This Durian sapling is about 3 years old. I planted the seeds from a fruit I bought in China Town, London. Because I am in the UK and winters here are cold, I germinated the seeds on a heated pad, like the ones they use for reptiles and amphibians. I now keep the growing tree near a radiator (which other plants seem to hate because it dries them out!), but I water it often with luke warm water from the kettle. I also planted it in ericaeous compost (I think normal potting compost is too rich for durian plants). All in all, it seems to tolerate my drafty flat in Bristol much better than expected!”


Chris, I have a few questions for you (hope you don’t mind!):

1. Did you start off growing this tree in the same pot as you have now or did you transplant it from a smaller pot?

2. I notice that the leaf tips turn brown, mine does too, any idea why? (is it natural?)

3. When your plant grew, did it lose any of its initial leaves along the way?

4. Did your plant grow from the base and is there a rough-ish texture along the initial stem?

5. Why is there a mirror beside the pot? Is this to reflect more light onto the leaves?

6. How long do you intend to keep it in your flat before you think it needs to be planted outdoors?

7. Do you intend to attempt at making a durian bonsai?

8. Do you love Durian fruit?

I am really looking forward to seeing Chris’s photos on his Durian Sapling’s sibling, which he donated to the botanic gardens of Bristol. Apparently, it is thriving in a heated greenhouse and is in better shape!

It would be pretty amazing if suddenly Bristol could become a European durian hub. But its going to be tough to beat the variety we have here in Malaysia πŸ™‚

Do Durian Plants Sleep at Night?

What a funny question. Why should plants sleep? Just like us, they need to conserve power, reduce water consumption and also snuggle down to keep warm and away from predators I suppose. No, seriously, its true. Plants have circadian rhythms just like us and this is reflected in how they control their leaf movements. Of course not all plants make it that obvious. If you’re in the tropics, Rain trees exhibit this behaviour very clearly (oh all those Biology classes come flooding back to me now) and it is a delight to observe the leaves fluttering in the wind in the daytime but hanging droopy and tightly closed in pairs at night, giving the tree a melancholic, sparse appearance.

I didn’t think much of this until recently when I’ve been observing my little durian plant SS No. 1 at night. Initially, I was under the impression that I was depriving it of water which is why the leaves were so droopy. But I knew this wasn’t the case as come morning, the water could be clearly seen and felt as the soil was indelibly wet. Hmm, what could it be? I decided to use my empirical powers over the course of a week to ascertain if it could be that durian plants have circadian rhythms.

In the olden day magicians’ tone of voice: OBSERVE!

Durian Circadian Leaf Movement TV Day and Night

Durian Circadian Leaf Movement TV Day and Night

The photo on the left was taken at approximately 10:30 am and you can see how the Durian plant responds so well to the morning sunlight.

The photo on the right was taken at 11:30 pm at night* and you can see how the leaves have flattened themselves against the stem. Even if you try to lift the leaves, you can detect the tension in the branches curling the leaves inwards.

* Photo has been lightened up considerably as it was quite dark and taken without flash.

Durian SS No. 1 Side view Circadian Rhythm

Durian SS No. 1 Side view Circadian Rhythm

OK, I know its not exactly the same perspective but I turn the pot around frequently and forget which angle I took the photo of SS No. 1 last time. Despite that, you can tell that the leaves are extended out in the daytime and huddled in at night.

It is interesting that the leaves do not close (fold in half) at night and are merely pulled in to lie almost flat against the stem. The angle and degree of extension and contraction seem fairly significant. Plant circadian rhythms have been extensively studied but I’m not sure if anyone has ever studied it in Durians. It would be wonderful if I’m the first to describe it with pictures here. πŸ™‚

Durian Despair – Optimizing Plant Growth Conditions in the UK

DavidDurian1I’m really happy and grateful that several other readers out there share their durian growing experiences with me and hope that by meticulously recording the details, it will serve to inspire many more to start their own little durianarium (new term! you saw it here first!).

David just wrote to me from the UK in some despair over his durian plantlet (see the comments) and he was most enthusiastic and methodical of us all. I have to give it to him, he had the idea, the equipment and the implementation. What on earth does it require to nurture a durian seed? I hear you ask….

Plastic bag at week 2 to prevent evaporation

Plastic bag at week 2 to prevent evaporation

Well, David’s durian seeds were imported from Singapore (which probably means that the durians are from Malaysia) and he had managed to successfully germinate them in some soil and in a very presentable plastic box. At 2 weeks, his seed looks like it had shedded its shell and the stem was starting to push up to stand. To counter the humidity, he wrapped a plastic bag around the outer tray (retains moisture) and watered his seed diligently every 3 days. After 2 weeks, he put it into a nice box by the window to keep it warm. I thought it was a marvellous idea and in fact inspired us to employ a similar method of cling filming my pot to prevent loss of water by evaporation and drying out the soil. All credit due to him for thinking up solutions for tropical plant germination in the UK.

David's Durian Plant Propagator

David's Durian Plant Propagator

I was therefore surprised when he wrote to me today stating that the tip of his durian plantlet was turning brown and he was most alarmed that it might be a sign of dehydration and premature death. My advice was limited to my own experience and I have asked him to keep his plant well watered, out of direct light, give it a little bit of organic plant food and hope for the best.

In a previous posting, Linda’s seed also had a similar issue, although she also did her utmost to look after it. I’m not sure what the issue is, whether it is prolonged shipping, insufficient water or perhaps inappropriate soil conditions that lead to this most disturbing result. An important step which I took prior to placing the seedling into soil was to immerse it into a box of water first to encourage a good headstart

The durian seedling with its initial stem and a bit of a green tip

The durian seedling with its initial stem and a bit of a green tip

simulating the monsoon rains. David and Linda, if you do decide to try planting another durian seed, maybe take this step as well and let me know if it works out better. My plantlet is absolutely flooded with water and I think it isn’t complaining…. (yet).

By the way David, where’s the seed husk? Did it fall off by itself or did you give your durian plant some help?

Don’t Drink and Durian? And certainly don’t drive

We’ve had long discussions about this over durian desserts before. Is it the truth or is it a myth that you can’t have durians with alcohol? Too many stories floating around about some guy who had a durian feast with whiskey and proceeded to keel over, turn blue and expire from this world. My doctor friends volunteered that they had never come across it personally but they thought that it was probably due to serious protein overload combined with some sort of poor digestive process caused by the durian consumed.

Well, imagine my delight when I finally found a scientific publication to back this up. Trust that it would be Japanese and Philippino scientists too. John Maninang and Hiroshi Gemma from the University of Tsukuba in Japan linked durian‘s high sulphur content with the impairment of alcohol breakdown. The durian extract they tested inhibited aldehyde dehydrogenase activity by up to 70%. So, it is conceivable that if you haven’t got much in the way of alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes in the first place and consumed both durian and whiskey (which has a high alcohol content) simultaneously, that the durians could be inhibiting your enzymes which are supposed to break down the alcohol before it gets to levels of toxicity that your body can’t tolerate*.

How did the researchers get inspired to look into these experiments? They thought that it possible that the link would be the same as a condition known as Disulfiram-Ethanol Reaction (DER). This is where the Sulphur interferes with your liver alcohol metabolism, and the researchers thought that Durian probably contained a high enough sulphur content to cause the same symptoms.

Certainly something to bear in mind, but its not often that durian is served with any alcohol at all. The worst combination would probably be a fermented Durian Alcohol or durian flavored cocktail… eeugh..

*Note: Some asians lack this enzyme and so experience alcohol toxicity at lower doses.