How To Check If A Durian Is Ripe For Consumption
If you have ever suffered the experience of happily picking a durian and realized when cranking it open later at home that it’s too hard or too soft, then you would have learned the lessen the hard way that durian picking is an acquired skill that can change your life.
Sometimes a little tough love is needed to learn the value of specific skills.
Suddenly the OCD behavior exhibited by patrons at the durian stall you’ve rolled your eyes at earlier seemed fully justified.
The thing is that durian picking is a specialist skill that takes years to hone at the professional level.
One day Harvard may start a course on it. And a module might include how the 28th thorn from the left at 117 degrees would display characteristics of a durian’s ripeness.
But for the most of us, attaining that pro-level of durian picking is not necessary when the end result we are seeking is just to taste durians the way we expect it to taste.
You see… with regards to people who mind their durians… ignorance is the exact opposite of bliss.
And these simple steps of how to pick a good durian that is just ripe enough can enable you to reduce the chances of picking a lemon down to near-zero.
A ripe durian would have fruitlets inside that are a little loose due to shrinkage from a loss of moisture. This is due to the chamber losing it’s firm grip on it.
A durian that is ripe enough would enabler the shaker to feel or hear the fruitlets thumping about in the pods that hold them.
However, when the thumping sound is too solid and loud, it is an indication that the fruit is overripe.
When no movement can be observed by any of your 5 senses plus your 6th sense, then it is a sign that the fruit is not ripe at all.
In any case, you could be after the unripe ones.
I won’t judge. To each his own.
When a durian seller handles a durian fruit for you, you might have noticed that he almost always start tapping it with a tool in hand.
This tool can sometimes be the knife which he uses to open the fruit, or something else shaped like a matchstick.
The tapping (or knocking) of the durian is a way to get an auditory sense of what is going on in the fruit on hand.
Sort of like a submarine pinging the ocean for life.
A ripe durian would make sort of a hollow sound due to the empty space between the fruitlet’s pellicle and chamber.
A solid sound would indicate that it is too ripe. An echo would mean that it’s yet to ripen.
No sound means that you need to remove your airpods first before doing this.
For those who hate the aroma of durians, this might be the toughest ripeness test to undertake.
But seasoned consumers actually find this the most accurate way to check a durian’s ripeness.
For this magical task, you need to get your nose as close to the durian as possible without pricking yourself with those tank-busting spikes.
Smell both the top and bottom of the durian near the seams.
What you are looking for, or rather smelling for, is for a fresh smell like a grass field in the morning when the sun has risen.
This is like identifying the different scent of unripe, ripe and overripe mangoes or bananas. It’s observable and can be trained. Often times, it’s also obvious.
The durian aroma would also be at a level 1 when you move away and rise to about a level 5 when you nose is into position.
The husk is a very capable container of the durian’s aroma. So it does a very good job in keeping the heavenly stinkiness in check when the husk is fully intact.
However, the fruit’s flesh would have a very strong fragrance which escapes marginally at the seams. This allows one to notice a significant difference when smelling from the source.
If the aroma rises to a level 10 when you put you nose in, then it is a sign that the fruit is overripe, or that the protective husk is not as intact as you might think.
If the aroma level didn’t change much, then it’s yet to ripe.
And if you don’t recognize any durian smell, you might have made the criminal mistake of picking up a jackfruit. Make sure no one has noticed you and put it back in a swift motion.
The smell from the top and bottom should be mostly similar.
You want to do this because durians start ripening from the bottom-up. So if you only smell the bottom, there is still a chance that there are unripe seeds at the top portion of the pods.
Look at the seams
The seams would not be able to help you tell if the fruit is ripe.
But if the seams have split open without any intrusion caused by anybody, then it can mean that it is overripe.
A hot and humid storage facility where the fruits are kept over a prolonged period of time can also cause this. Suffering from impacts on the fruits during transport can also shock the the fruits into opening their mouths.
Unsealed seams exposes the fruits to oxidation, insects, dirt, and other impurities.
This is one of the most intuitive skills of how to choose durian. If you see a durian that has creaked open, instincts should tell you that something is not right.
You want one that is sealed.
With this in mind, also take note that durians can crack open from the impact with the ground when falling off the tree. So one with it’s seams split does not necessarily mean a super ripe durian.
In this case, also look for markings on the husk such as a patch of dirt that indicate signs of impact so that you can have a good level of certainty that the crack might be from a drop.
Look at the stem
The stem is the brown looking stalk popping out at the top of the fruit.
This single feature of durians can disclose a lot of information about the fruit itself.
For starters, understand that ripe durians would fall off their trees naturally.
So if you see clean cut stems, it is an indication that the fruit was cut prematurely from the tree branch itself.
If this is not obvious, then know that the natural breaking point of durians is the joint found somewhere along the stem.
This means that if the joint is still clearly present and intact on the fruit, it was cut by people instead of naturally falling from the tree.
Early harvesting is not unusual as it gives planters more time to transport the fruits to sellers, who in turn would be able to sell them right when they ripe.
But how do you know that one is ripe and ready when it was clearly cut prematurely?
A freshly ripe durian would have a stem that is still green under the bark. This can be investigated by simple scraping the stem to see what’s underneath.
If there is no green hue inside, and what you see is brown instead, then it shows that the fruit have been ripening for quite some time.
Peek into the window
In some places, this practice is normal. But in others, sellers can see this as an insult.
So do consider sensing what is the norm at the place before demanding that a window into the durian is opened for you.
This surgical technique simply refers to cutting a window on the husk allowing one to look at the magical flesh contained under the thorny shell.
Opening this window is a generous gesture of a seller. So do appreciate the act. But don’t forget the task on hand.
When a window of opportunity is open, it allows you to properly smell and see the flesh.
Depending on what variety of cultivar you are buying, the correct smell and appearance will differ.
But if the seller is in a truly charitable mood (maybe coz he has hit his sales quota for the day) he might allow you to touch it.
Nope. Get your head out of the gutter. I mean touch the durian flesh.
If you are allowed to touch it, it is probably implied that you can press it.
Gently pressing it a little allows you to judge how soft the flesh is towards ripeness.
Just don’t make an impression that instantly devalues the durian.
And remember what’s stated earlier about the bottom riping earlier than the top.
So a window should either reveal the top or the top and bottom. If a window only reveals the bottom, there’s still a chance that the top has yet to ripen even though the bottom has riped perfectly.
In the old days, it used to be that durian sellers would do all these durian picking for us as they sell in local communities. News of selling a bad experience can spread fast. And there’s a sense of belonging and making a contribution to the community by selling durians.
But these days, durians have become pretty main-stream, arousing a huge growth in competition. Make no mistakes about that.
So sellers stuck with too much inventory would pass on unripe or overripe durians to unsuspecting and uninformed buyers… which is why learning how to pick ripe durians has become a necessary skill for those who need their durian fix regularly.