Durian, Durio zibethinus
Known in its native Southeast Asia as the ‘King of Fruits’, and famed more widely as the world’s most malodorous fruit, the durian has gained a notorious reputation. Because of its overpowering smell it is banned from several airlines, hotels and the public transport system in Singapore. Eating the ripe fruits has been likened to consuming custard in an open sewer. But while its smell may be evocative of sewage, the fruit’s creamy flesh is regarded as a delicacy. Mark Twain when travelling in the region was told that ‘if you could hold your nose until the fruit was in your mouth a sacred joy would suffuse you from head to foot’. The flavour has been variously described as reminiscent of caramel, almonds or bananas, while for the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace it called to mind cream cheese, onion sauce and even sherry. Opinion is sharply divided – in some people the durian provokes a deep disgust, in others a high regard.