It's Durian Season Again
The Australian Durian season has begun again. With the first box having arrived in Sydney on Monday, I'm reminiscing to this time last year was when the seed of The Thorny Fruit Co was planted. I can't believe it's been a year since I first had a whiff of the Australian durians. I recall chasing durians in Cabramatta with a friend, her daughter and my then 4 month old baby in tow.
We bought two durians. The first one was a disappointment. We were sold on the fact that it was the last three fruit left, and we didn't want to miss out. We opened to taste it almost immediately, barely walking 1m away from the first shop. It was wet, mushy and tasteless. The arils were tiny. It was a small sized fruit with large broad thorns. The sulphuric scent of a fresh durian was undeniable. The let down from the taste was evident among the three of us.
When we walked around the corner to another fruit shop, there were more. Undeterred, we picked out another one more at this second shop, and headed back to my friend's home.
We sat with mixed feelings about having spent almost AUD$100 on these two durians. As Malaysian migrants, it was tough to get past the dollar conversion value of this coveted fruit. But for my friend and I - who don't get to travel back to Malaysia much - having a taste of fresh durians on our new home soil in Sydney had a evoked a sense nostalgia.
We opened the thick husk of this green thorny fruit, in anticipation against another round of disappointment. What appeared was a full-shaped bright sunshine yellow pulp, clinging on to its nest of white. This durian was different.
When I bit into the firm, yet creamy pulp - the aroma lingered and triggered memories. The taste reminded me of my dad's favourite D24. It's delightful sweetness with a bittersweet aftertaste was soul-satisfying. I could not remember when was the last time I had fresh durian. I moved here over a decade ago.
My friend, who had been living in Australia for three decades absolutely delighted in the experience, and earthy taste of this durian. She said it reminded her of durian kampung. Farmed clones or fancy names didn't need to appeal to the village-folk back in Malaysia. When you come across a century old durian tree growing in your backyard, you learn to appreciate nature for what it is - a gift.
Badgering the Farmer's Son
The experience of these durian varieties growing in Australia left me curious. I began to do some Googling. Trawling Facebook on where these durians were coming from. When I found Tropical Primary Products' Facebook page, I noticed that they were only promoting what they called the HEW1 variety.
I messaged the page, asking them about this variety and how I could pick it from the pile of other Australian durians in Cabramatta.
Han Shiong amusedly put me through a "guess the durian" quiz with photos. I learnt to spot the difference with its overall fruit shape, thorn size, weight, smell and feel. Then I put myself through the test - headed to Cabramatta to try once more.
I got it right! Another amazing tasting bittersweet durian.
But the whole experience got me wondering why the greengrocers didn't separate the HEW1 from the others. So I asked Han if I could buy the HEW1 durians on its own from Sydney Markets. He said I could, if I wanted to eat 20kg durians.
I took to Facebook and gathered a few friends, asking if they wanted to share a box. A box became 200kg... and another 250kg worth... in two trips. Friends of friends in a Facebook Group were overly excited about tasting fresh, not frozen, durians - and curious about the Australian durian experience.
Their excitement got hold of me. Han planted the idea that I could do this as a business. Hah. As if.
12 months later. Here I am. Waiting to get my hands on this season's fresh durian once again.
Only, there won’t be as many HEW1 durians due to the drought. This year’s adventure will be with the other mixed bag of durian varieties from their farm.