AUG 19, 2017 12:22 PM PDT

Why Does the Durian Fruit Smell So Terrible?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
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The durian fruit is as polarizing as it goes. Some people can't get enough of the smell, while others are absolutely repulsed by the fruit's pungent aroma. Richard Sterling, a food writer, described the durian's potent smell as foul as "turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock." Of the aftermath of eating the fruit, Anthony Bourdain says "Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."

When chemists tried identify the compounds responsible for the durian's uniquely potent aroma, they found at least 50 distinct chemicals. Of those, four compounds had not been found in any other fruit.

Some individual compounds in durian resemble odor notes found in onions, garlic, cheese, skunks, and even dried squid. But as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And for the durian, it's the combination of all chemicals which mix together that imbue the fruit with such a distinctive and powerful stench.

For those who love durian and adore the aroma, just be sure to consume the fruit outside of confined public areas. The fruit is banned in Singapore's mass transit system among other places.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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