King Durian and the superhero super fruit

08/10/2012 09:13:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Amelia Freidline, Fresh TakeAmelia Freidline, Fresh TakePrince Hamlet famously declared “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Maybe it was a durian.

The King of Fruits, as the foot-long, 2- to 7-pound durian is known, is infamous for its distinctive odor.

A friend of mine who tried durian recently described it as tasting “like all the worst things you’ve ever imagined.”

Another friend, who lives in Taiwan, where durian is sold at the market right next to pineapple and kiwifruit, said durian’s scent is too bad to stomach eating the fruit fresh.

Even globe-trotting chef Anthony Bourdain, who apparently is a durian fan, likens their scent to that of decomposing flesh.

So why all the interest in a stinky fruit?

A Thai researcher has been hard at work destinking durian with an eye to widening its circle of acceptance.

Alastair Bland, writing for NPR’s food blog The Salt, says fruit breeder Songpol Somsri has spent 25 years crossing more than 90 durian varieties in hopes of producing a deodorized version.

From 2007-12 Somsri released six such varieties, with crops from 20,000 saplings planted in Thailand expected to produce fruit next year or in 2014.

Bland writes that Somsri doesn’t know when the fruit might make it to American markets.

I wondered if companies like Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc. and Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which specialize in exotic or unusual fruits and vegetables, would consider adding durian to their product lineups.

Could a scentless durian — or at least one with a toned-down odor — make fans among more timid-paletted American consumers, or would the spiky exterior and huge size scare away all but the most adventurous eaters?

I might regret this later, but if deodorized durians ever make it to the U.S., I’d be willing to give them a try.

Super fruit

Switching gears from monarchs to superheroes and the super fit, Subway has been racking up points this summer with its avocado season promotion.

Restaurant and website advertisements feature the tagline “The Super Good Super Food” while Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno holds out a sandwich slathered with avocado spread.

TV commercials featuring Ohno and other sports figures, including former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin, bill the chain as “the official training restaurant of Apolo Ohno and athletes everywhere.”

Message? Eat avocados and you’re on your way to being an athletic power house.

It’s hard to beat that for feel-good vibes.

The Olympics may be almost over for now, but hopefully sports fans across the U.S. will keep the super fruit in mind up through their Super Bowl batches of guacamole.

afreidline@thepacker.com

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