What Makes Durian Stinky?

Durian is reputed to be the stinkiest fruit in the world, so researchers at the German Research Center for Food Chemistry recently set out to find out exactly what makes it so malodorous. They write in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:

The sensory properties of fresh durian combine a pleasant creamy consistency, a pronounced sweet taste, and a strong, penetrating odor, not comparable to that of any other kind of fruit. The aroma profile can be best described as a combination of an intense sulfury, roasted onion-like odor with fruity, sweet, caramel-like, and soup seasoning-like notes. In Southeast Asia, durian is deeply appreciated and often referred to as the “king of fruits”, whereas some people in the Western hemisphere regard the durian odor as offensive and nauseous. The unique odor properties of durian have repeatedly attracted the attention of chemists... Despite the quite high number of studies on durian volatiles, it is still unclear which odorants predominately contribute to its aroma. Therefore, our aim was to systematically assess the odor contribution of individual durian volatiles.

Their investigation involved a) shipping Durian by air freight from Thailand to Germany; b) extracting pulp from the fruit; and then c) analyzing the pulp by means of a "Trace GC Ultra gas chromatograph" equipped with a "tailor-made sniffing port":

The sniffing port consisted of a cylindrically shaped aluminum device (105 mm × 24 mm diameter) with a beveled top and a central drill hole (2 mm) housing the capillary. It was mounted on a heated (200 °C) detector base of the GC. During a GC-O run, the panelist placed her/his nose closely above the top of the sniffing port and evaluated the odor of the effluent. If an odor was perceived, the retention time was marked in the FID chromatogram printed by a recorder and the odor quality was noted.

This effort yielded "several new aroma compounds with interesting odors," but the authors of the study caution that further investigations are still required in order to "unequivocally assess the contribution of individual odorants to durian aroma."
     Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 02, 2012
     Category: Food | Science | Experiments

That thing looks disgusting too. It grosses me out!
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 12/02/12 at 10:40 AM
No sense getting all the information in one pass when there's, obviously, more money to be gotten for more study!

Sounds like the Limburger of fruits.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 12/02/12 at 11:53 AM
Limburger of fruits
Funny Expat! Reminds me of the corpse flower too. sick
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 12/02/12 at 12:00 PM
Gross, But, YUMMY!! Don't believe me? Well then ask Anthony Bourdain.
See him eat and describe durian HERE! the durian part starts at 5:45 cool smile
Posted by Tyrusguy on 12/02/12 at 12:11 PM
So, I guess, once you get past the smell you've got it licked!
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 12/02/12 at 12:14 PM
My brother was a pilot who flew in areas where durians were prized. During durian season, many passengers wanted to bring them on the plane with them --- in the cabin. My brother refused to allow it. He said one ripe durian was bad enough to stink up the cabin, but multiples in such a relatively small enclosed space with recirculating air would cause the flight crew to gag and vomit, preventing them from performing their duties. All durians had to be tagged and checked and put into the cargo bay. Many of the passengers got angry about it but if they wanted to fly on his plane, that was the rule. I have smelled it and it does smell rather like sour milk/sewer/ dirty diapers to me. I can't imagine putting it into my mouth unless I were starving, but people who grow up with it seem to love it. They can have my portion.
Posted by ScoutC on 12/02/12 at 12:19 PM
In the late 1980's I read a paper that reported that the chemicals that produce the odor of feces were identified. A team of graduate students had put a similar 'sniff port' on the outlet of a gas chromatograph (about a $50,000 instrument!) to perform the analysis.
I enjoy imagining the expression on the Professor's face when he found out what the students had run through his GC.
Posted by tadchem on 12/03/12 at 05:27 AM
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