Stinky Spike Family Update

I would like to introduce you to the Stinky Spikes Family. In photos!

Stinky Durian Plant

Stinky Spikes No. 2

Stinky Spikes Durian Plantlet No. 3

Stinky Spikes No. 3

Stinky Durian Plant No. 4

Stinky Spikes No. 4

Durian Plant no. 5

Stinky Spikes No. 5

Stinky Durian Plantlet No. 6

Stinky Spikes No. 6

Stinky Spikes Durian Plant No. 7

Stinky Spikes No. 7

I have to tell you, these D24 seeds really germinated well. The size of the seed was a direct correlation to the size of the initial stem and plant, so do pick the largest seeds for the best chance of strong early growth.

Stinky Spikes Durian Family

Stinky Spikes Durian Family

All the D24s are beating the Tauwa now. But I suspect a greater system problem there… will share the investigations with you soon.

These D24s doubled the height in half the time.

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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?

Linda shares her Durian growing experience

A big thank you to Linda for sharing her durian growing experience with me. Since I am also new to this entire process, its helpful to have other fellow novice durian germinators sharing what they did (whether it succeeds or not).

In a durian nutshell, Linda brought the seeds home from her trip to Thailand where she first sampled this delectable delicacy. Her husband, now addicted to the heavenly aromas and textures, requested his beautiful wife to keep the seeds and cultivate these gems into living souvenirs of their journey and maybe provide stinky annual reminders of their experiences from the Kingdom of Smiles.

She dutifully washed them and soaked them but a week passed and there was no sign of life. Then she planted them in soil and voila! after a few weeks, a wriggly stem appeared.

Linda sent me 3 photos, I’ve put it into a composition so that you can clearly see how its grown.

Linda's Baby Durian Plantlet

Linda's Baby Durian Plantlet

What’s a durian like if it has no smell?

One of the reasons why many people (including some of my own family members) don’t like durian, is that they claim that the smell alone puts them off. Not just the smell that hits you when you’re approaching the stall, not just the smell that hits you when you first cut open a ripened fruit, but the smell of the fruit once digested which returns to remind you in the form of either a loud or discrete burp….

Chantaburi Province- Non smelly durian cultivation

Chantaburi Province- Non smelly durian cultivation

Since we’ve decided that there’s got to be a way to convince my various family members to become converts to the durian aficionado’s club, I started looking into durians with no smell. Not surprisingly, enterprising researchers have already been working on this project for a couple of years and come up with some hybrids which have less or little smell. Named the “Chantaburi No. 1”, this species of Thai durian is already in existence although I have no idea whether it is as yet sold at Siam Paragon’s supermarkets. The scientist Dr. Songpol Somsri is in the process (well, he’s been in the process for 20 years) of designing one which will yield a durian with no smell and (beat this) no thorns.

Distinguishing durians from jackfruits and soursops just got more challenging… no smell and no thorns. Perhaps we should name them after the band “Duran Duran” since we can’t really call it duri-an anymore…

The Chantaburi No. 1 link above has a great audio clip with an interview with Dr. Songpol, which is really funny and I highly recommend you click on it and give it a listen 🙂

Durian is the King and Mangosteen is the Queen

Mangosteens sold by the Kilo

Mangosteens sold by the Kilo

In the last episode of high octane durian consumption, I neglected to mention that apart from the lovely “King of fruits”, we also indulged in the very delicate and lovely “Queen of fruits”. Despite its name, the mangosteen is nothing like a mango and certain doesn’t taste like one either. Usually in simultaneous season as the durian, the mangosteen is thought to be the “yang” factor (while the durian is the “yin”) and is supposed to balance out the “heatiness” of the durian. Whether this eastern medical prescription is true in the western scientific sense, isn’t really important when you consider that the mangosteen is able to complement the flavor of the durian by its own intensity of sweetness.

I’ve heard and seen many a health food store now touting the  benefits of mangosteen juice, sold in bottles and cans which have the appearance of ribena. Just this evening in the office, we broke open a packet of dehydrated mangosteen (courtesy of Thailand) which kind of tasted like rubbery barbeque chips [ more on this in another entry].

Basically, preserving the mangosteen doesn’t really do it any justice and please – never eat any derivative and think that it provides you a true reflection of the flavor of the fruit.

For the benefit of readers who haven’t had the luxury of trying fresh mangosteens, I’d like to put a few tips and pointers up so that you can appreciate the details of the fruit when you do get a chance to eat one (or a whole bag, as it usually happens).

Mangosteen base sepal

Mangosteen base sepal

Firstly, the color. Mangosteens are a deep purple with a smooth,armoured and brittle exterior. (Apologies for this fuzzy photo, my camera didn’t shoot too well under low light so I might have to re-do this one in the future.)

Mangosteens vary in size and at smallest resemble a squash ball and can be as large as tennis balls or snooker balls. On the top of the fruit, you will usually see a green stem with the sepals of the fruit. On the bottom there is always a pretty design of the flower as pictured here on the left. By counting the number of “petals” of the flower, you can estimate the number of mangosteen fruit sacs it contains.

For example, this one has 6 and when you open it you can see that there are indeed 6 fruit sacs.

Pearly White Flesh of the Mangosteen

Pearly White Flesh of the Mangosteen

The flesh within is usually pearly white and sometimes almost translucent. If you examine the fruit sacs closely, the surface resembles threads which have been spun and interwoven into a fine silk. The seeds within each fruit sac can be approximated to the size of the fruit sac. The larger the fruit sac, the larger the seed. The small fruit sacs often have no seeds at all and are the best to eat.

The seeds are small enough to swallow, although some of us do and some of us don’t. It’s a matter of preference.

Crispy Mangosteen

Crispy Mangosteen

Sometimes, the flesh isn’t pearly white but a translucent grey. I personally am not a fan of these but some of my colleagues are completely in love with these and relish finding one as though they are gems among stones. The flesh is known as “crispy” or “crunchy” and not soft like the usual ones.

Here on the left, you can also clearly discern the outer husk/shell of the mangosteen, its inner pulpy protective layer (similar to the whitish peel of the orange) and the juicy interior.

For travellers to Malaysia and Singapore, please note that in hotels there are usually signs which tell you what is prohibited in the hotel. Most places now prohibit smoking, but they also prohibit 2 particular fruits, namely the durian and the mangosteen.

Why? Firstly durians for its pungent aroma, which once circulating in the aircon vent is notoriously difficult to eradicate. Secondly, mangosteens for their purple juice (from the interior shell) which stains all fabrics indiscriminately and permanently, making it a living nightmare for the laundrette. Even washing your hands after a dessert of mangosteens can be a challenge at times.

As I was lucky to have many expert mangosteen eater/openers with me on this particular outing, I asked SW for a demonstration on how to best open a mangosteen without injuring yourself (some people use sharp objects but this is a recipe for disaster) or staining yourself, evoking the ire of whoever is in charge of your laundry.

Mangosteen Opening Technique

Mangosteen Opening Technique

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Useful tips when eating Mangosteen:

1. Have a toothpick ready to pick at the fruit if you don’t want to use your fingers

3. Always have tissues handy

4. Preferably have drinking water ready

5. Avoid using tissues until the end of your feast as the juice is very sticky

6. Do not touch any other fabric with your hands

7. Have a wet tissue / towel at hand for wiping up

8. Give your hands a good wash with water

9. Try eating it together with Durians- it brings out the flavor better

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Hope this helps and enjoy the fruit!