Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Dreaming of a Durian Christmas

 Ovidia--every other Tuesday

Heavier rains than usual have produced a larger than usual durian harvest in Malaysia, meaning durian prices will be down over Christmas, meaning that's what we'll probably be celebrating with this year!

Our own trees (well, the ones just outside our gate) didn't get the memo, though--

 --it looks like they're done fruiting for this year.

In pre-Covid days, once the flowers dropped, people would stand around discussing how the fruit looked and speculating on when it would drop. And it was a lesson in patience, because this is one fruit that cannot be harvested (or you risk angering the tree spirit and all future fruit will be tasteless). 

I've only ever been present at one fruit drop, that was after a heavy rain so only one other lady was around waiting. (I'd been on my way to the bus stop, honest!) We both heard the heavy thump and I went down the slope into the undergrowth and retrieved it for her. She was so happy and said, "I will keep it for my son tonight," I suggested that since that one tiny durian wasn't much for her, her son and their domestic helper, I buy her another from the stall up the road (this was when Uncle Lee, our neighbourhood durian uncle was still alive) but she said no. 

"If I want to eat I can buy for myself. But this one I saw drop, is good luck," She wanted to give me a seed of it, to share the good luck, but durian before going on public transport isn't a good idea!

There's a maximum fine of $500 if you're caught carrying durians on the MRT system. 

Of course durian sellers have their ways of getting around that. In the old days my dad would bring home whole durians and pry them open with a cleaver in the open air courtyard with all of us squatting around.

Now there are fewer plantations and more durian sellers.

I love this mural--but that poor woman is about to hit by a falling durian!

These days durian sellers open and package the fruit, some advertising special 'vacuum packaging' that will let you carry your durian home without stinking up your car or even "by bus, train or airplane without getting fined!"

But how does buying durians work? You go to the stall and see what they have to offer/ tell them your preferences: sweet, bitter or bittersweet? hard or soft? small seed or big seed?


I'm no good at picking fruit (connoisseurs will sniff and shake the fruit, pinch the spines to test for stiffness and scrape the stem to look for greenness). I find durian sellers I trust and leave it to them!

My preference is for soft, bitter fruit with small seeds and one of my favourites is the Mao Shan Wang or Mountain Cat King which ranges from bittersweet to bitter. I also love the D24 with its small seeds and darker yellow, almost orange bittersweet flesh.

They should open and show you the fruit for your approval. I like softer fruit (yes, even in bananas and apples) so I also like the XO durians which are really really soft--

--soft enough to put some people off. They come with a slightly alcoholic aftertaste, which may explain the name!

It's not just us humans who love and wait patiently for durians to drop naturally though. There are always birds, squirrels and monkeys lurking in the vicinity of fruiting trees. There are also stories of how, in the old days, tigers and wild boars would stake out rights to particular trees in the wild, and anyone who took fruit from those trees would be followed back to their villages and attacked.

(Yes there's a murder mystery here and I'm going to play around with the idea if no one else wants it!)

And our two doglets loved durian too, especially our Princess, who died this year. This will be our first Christmas without our darling little dog who used to adore durian!

 (That's Princess winning the race above. Behind her is Hermione aka The Duchess, who died two years back.)

I'm going to miss our silly Christmas rituals like doggy treats and gifts and doggy photos. But we who are still alive will create new traditions.

 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Everyone!

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