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Durio is a genus of around 30 species of large tropical trees, known as durians, generally now in the Malvaceae (Mallow family) although sometimes classified its own family, Durionaceae (and formerly placed in Bombacaceae). The genus is best known for the species, D. zibethinus, the durian, a fruit popular in southeast Asia and considered to be an aphrodisiac, which is cultivated throughout the Old World tropics and occasionally in the New World tropics.

The genus originated in southeast Asia, centered in Malaysia, Borneo, and Sumatra. Five Durio species bear edible fruit. The trees, which will not grow outside of tropical areas, typically have broad, buttressed trunks, and may grow to 40 m (130 ft) or more within forests, although they are often shorter when cultivated in plantations. The leaves, which are leathery and evergreen, are alternate and entire (smooth margined, without teeth or lobes), ranging in shape from elliptical to oblong to lanceolate, and are generally smooth on the upper surface, but the lower surface of at least some species is covered with a dense layer of rust-colored hairs. Flowers, which are known for their bad odor, are white to golden brown, with 3 petals, and occur in clusters. They develop into a large spiny fruit, which in D. zibethinus may weigh as much as 3.6 kg (8 lbs). The fruit is a capsule with several segments that may split open on ripening; each segment has several large seeds enclosed in soft, cream-colored flesh (the aril), which is the edible part.

Durian fruits, like the flowers, have a strong odor, but the flesh has a buttery, custard-like texture and a sweet flavor that is reminiscent of bananas. The fruit is attractive to numerous insects and animals, and humans tend to either love it or hate it. The fruit may be eaten fresh (generally considered best when chilled), and is used in ice cream and baked goods. It may also be dried, fermented, pickled, or salted, or cooked with rice, or simply boiled with sugar or coconut milk. The seeds can be used similarly to chestnuts, and can be eaten roasted and salted, or sliced and fried in oil. The unripe fruit may be boiled and eaten whole. Leaves and shoots are sometimes cooked and eaten as greens. The flesh of the fruit is used in traditional medicine to treat worms and is considered an aphrodisiac; it may also have antimicrobial effects.

(Bailey et al. 1976, Ecocrop 2012, Morton 1987, van Wyk 2005, Waynesword 2012.)


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