Figure 1: Durian fruit of southeast asia: the “king” of fruits.
Recently I watched a video on Youtube that was about the Durian fruit of southeast Asia. I had done so on previous occassions, and was intrigued by the enthusiasm that Durian fruit aficionados expressed. Finally, my curiosity could be kept at bay no more – and I purchased a fruit for myself.
The result after cutting the fruit out of its thorny cocoon in shown in figure 1. It’s not really a pretty fruit, so maybe that’s why it’s the king of fruits rather than the queen. After a couple mouthfuls, I was non-plussed. What’s the big deal, I asked myself. Then I went back to Youtube to watch a few more videos. I discovered that all of the posters of the videos were shown sucking on the piece of Durian for quite a while before eating it. So, it occured to me that the flavor was a slow flavor (I’d never heard of such a thing) – but I took a piece into my mouth and left it sit on my tongue for fifteen seconds. The flavor increased quite a lot in that time, making me believe in the “slow flavor” idea.
Subsequent research on this idea supplied me with some information of unknown veracity – but the info seemed to suggest that just-picked Durian has brain-synthesized flavor in addition to its sugar sweetness and a mild maple-syrup-like taste. The inference seemed to be that Durian’s chemical composition causes a confusion of the taste buds – making the sensors malfunction in some way, after which the brain, while interpreting the confused signals, determines the outcome as a completely new taste that happens only in Durian! It’s called the numb taste by some people in the business.
To be sure, the dangerous puffer fish taste is said to work the same way, but Durian is (as far as I know) not dangerous. This “numb taste” apparently drives the insatiable appetite some southeast asian people have for Durian. I should note that the fruit has to be less than 1-2 days old (from picking) in order for the special tastes to be affective. After that time, the taste is not gone entirely – but significantly suppressed. Or so they say.
Why the majenta reference? Oh – yeah, I forgot to mention that while the taste buds sense what may be, according to some, a “brain synthesized” taste in Durian, the eyes undergo a similar thing with the color majenta. Majenta doesn’t occur as a single wavelength that the eye normally “sees” – like red, blue, or green. But – the brain interprets multiple wavelengths of light in certain combination to be Majenta. I guess this is a bit like the sweet, sour, and salty taste buds reacting to something that is unusual (Durian), in an analagous way to Majenta’s perception of color. Or so I think.
The durian has sugar (a ton of it) – so it is sweet tasting aside from the “numb taste” – or lack thereof. All “tastes” are synthesized by the brain, as far as that goes – so I wouldn’t really say that Durian has no intrinsic taste – I’d just say instead that it has a very special taste, like Majenta has a special color in our brains.