For people who prefer Malaysia durians over Thailand durians, we can generally assume they have a personal preference to certain key characteristics the former is different from the latter.
The primary one is of course, well documented to be the ripeness with Malaysian durian harvested when they are more ripe compared to their counterparts up north.
Loving a ripe durian also comes with the inference that one prefers flesh that is softer, and more in liquid form that it is in solid form.
In the generally broad category of Malaysia durian, all durians can be further categorized generally as having grown from young trees or old trees.
The means that no matter which cultivar it is, a durian fruit can be classified into either one that has dropped off an old durian tree or from a young tree.
Just walk into a durian stall and look at all the signboards on display indicating the prices for the day. It is common practice for example, to see several display sections in a store for musang king, with a specific section for those having fallen from old trees, and the latter commanding a much higher price.
The tendency for old tree durians to command a premium price comes from the assertion that the taste it packs is a premium taste.
This goes back to the measuring stick of how durians are rated on the delicious scale. It is from this spectrum of taste where people generally determine that fruits from old durian trees have a higher value that consumers would be willing to pay for.
There is a common saying often heard from durianing veterans that whether a durian you pick is delicious or lacking depends on whether it came from an old tree or young tree. What cultivar it is is mostly insignificant.
It is important to comprehend this as individuals can have different preferences in terms of taste and flavour. Implying that a supposedly premium tasting durian might be deemed as underwhelming by some. Making it a waste of money to buy old tree fruits.
So what are the differences between young tree and old tree durians?
1) Wrinkled skin
One of the biggest signs that indicate an old tree durian is wrinkled skin on the lobes of fruitlet.
Young durians tend to have tighter skin because they contain a little more moisture. Creating a “fuller” appearance.
The extra moisture also means that the flavour of young durians can be more diluted compared to the older ones with less moisture and thus more concentrated.
2) Creamy sticky flesh
The lesser moisture on old fruits also implies that the flesh, or meat, of the fruit would be more sticky and/or creamy depending on the cultivar.
The thick creaminess of durians is often one key aspect that durianers crave for.
If a fruitlet has wet or watery flesh texture, it is either a young durian or one that is too ripe.
Young durian fruits tend to have flesh that spot a solid consistent colour throughout.
Old tree durian fruits tend to have the main colour with different tones and hue. They can look “rusty”.
The blue-black appearance is a common jargon used to describe this.
It can be like comparing a new pair of shoes versus a seasoned pair that has gone through some wear and tear.
One reason for this is that old tree fruits can sometimes appear to be translucent to some degree.
Which leads us to the next point.
4) Skin thickness
The fruitlets’ skin on old tree durians are often much thinner compared to their younger compatriots.
This can often enable the observe to see the deeper darker colours inside the flesh.
The terms “bruise” or “blue black” are often used to express this feature. As if the fruit got injured.
5) Fruit consistency
Old tree durians are much more likely to contain very similar seeds of fruitlets in it’s different compartments of pods.
They will usually look and taste the same as long as they are from the same fruit.
This is partly because the old trees are more experienced in growing their fruits and are stronger overall compared to young trees in terms of health.
This means that the quality and consistency of fruits they produce are less affected by harsh weather conditions such as rain.
A young tree might not be able to easily weather a storm. And spend more of it’s energy recovering rather than conceiving their fruits. This is why durians with partially ripe and unripe fruitlets mostly come from young trees.
Ever had a pulp that’s creamy first then you discover a much harder texture of flesh as you get close to the seed? That’s from a young tree.
6) Taste consistency
In line with fruit consistency, you can expect a fantastic durian from an old tree to be consistent with other fruits from the same tree during the same harvest.
This means that if you love a durian from an old tree and wish to have more, you can do so with confidence that your next one would taste more or less the same.
This cannot be said for fruits from young trees which can be inconsistent with the fruits they produce.
Whether it is a cultivar meant to be sweet or bitter, you can expect an authentic old tree fruit having a stronger flavour compared to the younger one.
This is why young fruit meat is regularly used for making desserts or packed in to puree as it creates more value to consumers that way.
The strength of the aroma is also often discussed. But this feature is more of a measure of how ripe the fruit it.
The riper it is, the stronger (or stinkier) the aroma.
When describing the taste of durians, connoisseurs frequently talk about the aftertaste being bitter, alcoholic, floral, etc.
Old tree durians tend to carry a much stronger aftertaste. Young fruits sometimes don’t even have an aftertaste.
The result is a more complex flavour to the former.
D24 from genuine old trees for example, can carry a substantial alcoholic aftertaste. Going up your nose like having a Scotch.
Saying that, a lot of this characteristic also depends on the quality of the harvest.
Some people talk about the numbness to the tongue with old tree harvests. But this is actually a characteristic more attributed to how fresh the fruit is in relation to when it dropped.
9) Flesh to seed ratio
Generally speaking, durians from old trees tend to be smaller than those of young trees. Just put two next to each other and you might even notice that the stem of the elder one is also slimmer.
It is also often said that old trees come with small seeds in the fruit. This is not totally correct as this really depends on the cultivar.
Original musang kings for example will have small seeds no matter the age of the tree. Bigger seeds that we see these days is really the result of the fruits coming from grafted clones instead.
However, older fruits tend to have a higher flesh-to-seed ratio. Creating the impression that the older the tree, the smaller the seed.
In any case, if there are two durians of the same size. One from a young tree and one from an old tree, the odds are overwhelming that the latter will have a higher flesh to seed ratio.
In closing, be mindful not to ascertain that all fruitlets that display characteristics of old trees are from old trees. The most you can assume is that they CAN be from old trees.
Ultimately the single biggest factor that will resolve this question is how it taste. And flesh of old tree durians don’t necessarily taste better as taste is subjective depending from person to person.
Use this knowledge to at least avoid getting scammed by dishonest sellers peddling average fruits as premium ones.