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Scenes From a Durian Farm
When durian season approaches in Malaysia, it’s not uncommon for fans of the king of fruits to go the extra mile just to eat durian fresh from the orchard.
Malaysia may have an exciting variety of tropical fruits, but there is only one fruit that can spark divided opinions across the country and beyond: the durian.
Whether you express deep appreciation or disgust for the thorny, pungent fruit, there’s one thing most of us can agree on: the durian is a Malaysian icon we’re proud to have.
But fulfilling the great demand for the seasonal fruit isn’t just about growing them in abundance. The cultivation process requires time and proper care to ensure that the durians produced have creamy, succulent flesh.
Raub Durian Orchard in Raub, Pahang has been growing durians for over 30 years. Boasting ten acres of land and 400 durian trees of various hybrids, it’s also one of the biggest durian farms in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Durian is like wine [but] not many people see it that way,” says owner Eddie Yong. “The taste, texture, and aroma are all elements to determine what makes a good or bad durian. And to me, that is no different from making your own wine. To care for the fruit is not as simple as just waiting for it to grow.”
“Durian takes about three to four months to grow,” he continues. “We would need to change the soil regularly, and make sure that it does not get too much water. That’s why durian farms are in hilly areas – the trees are planted in slopes so that water will not be stagnant and drown the roots of the tree.”
Being a durian connoisseur, Yong has become a trusted supplier for quality durians, from Musang King to D24s. Trucks would travel all the way to his farm to transport the fruit to places like Selangor and even Singapore.
Still, Yong believes that the best way to enjoy durian is at the farm. “Even though it’s convenient to get the fruits in town, the farms have it fresh from the tree. The taste is just so much [more] different.”
According to Yong, the farm gets all sorts of visitors thanks to social media and word of mouth. Apps like Waze also make the farm more accessible to first-time visitors.
“Tourists from China would even know how to get to my farm. So I guess with the growth of technology, demand has gotten higher.”
Demand may be high, but it’s not always a guarantee that Yong will earn a lot from each season.
“I never learnt how to grow durians properly,” he confesses, “so there were times where we would get only a few good fruits because of the bad weather condition or it was not well taken care of. So I made a lot of mistakes which led to many losses. But that’s how you learn!”
A 90-minute drive from Yong’s farm in Raub is Karak Organic Durian Farm. Started by Ng Swee Pen and his wife in 1993, it was only eight years ago that the couple decided to switch to organic farming for health reasons.
“To grow organic durians,” says Ng, “you cannot use genetically modified organisms [GMO], pesticide, fungicide, or any artificial fertiliser. We are environmentally friendly, so it must be purely organic. And whatever shell or seed we have, we compost to grow more durian.”
Ng’s efforts have certainly paid off. In 2012, the farm was certified organic by Sistem Organik Malaysia (SOM), a certification programme by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“It was a long and tedious process to get this certification,” says Ng. “From taking the course to the soil testing within a span of two to three years, we’re finally able to tell everyone that we are certified organic. So people will know that our durian is genuine and much more healthier.”
Ng also makes it a point to cap the amount of visitors to his farm so as not to affect the crops.
“We usually don’t want too many people to be in the farm because of all the germs that might affect the durian. But we still love to welcome them into the farm because we want to educate the public on the benefits of organic durian,” he explains.
Ng also claims that the durians’ flesh is smoother in texture and richer in taste than commercial durians. “There is a lot of science to it but with the right technology and knowledge, anything is possible,” he says.
This quality is also a guarantee he extends to his vendors. “When [sellers] want to sell [my durians] in the Klang Valley, I would tell them that if there is any durian that is not good, just bring it back. I want to make sure that the quality is guaranteed good to eat for the customers.”
“But nowadays, it would be best for the customers to learn and experience from my farm itself.”
Karak Organic Durian Farm also has durian buffets depending on the season, during which you can try a range of durian such as D24, Musang King, D88, D144 and D101. Priced at RM150 per adult and RM75 per child, private tours can be arranged for groups of ten and above. Bookings are now available until 28 January.
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