What a plentiful year, with huge supply of seasonal fruits!

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Traders offering fresh in-season durians at the market in Lachau Town, near Simanggang in Sri Aman Division.

THIS year’s bountiful fruit season certainly warrants any outstation journey to the towns and districts dotting along the Pan Borneo Highway, just like our Yang Di-Pertuan Agong had done.

My friend recently drove me to Sibu from Kuching, in a journey that only took five hours, and I had many opportunities to savour the in-season fruits – not only the durians and the ‘dabai’ (local olives) but also ‘cempedak’, ‘langsat’, ‘tempoi’, ‘telay nyekak’ and ‘karangi’.

The durians were of many varieties, including the ‘durian merah’ (with crimson flesh).

The offerings were aplenty at the market in Lachau town near Simanggang.

At the Sarikei Fruits Bazaar, near the wharf, there a long line of busy vendors selling durians and dabai at very cheap prices.

The bountiful fruit season in Sarawak seems incomplete without mentioning the highly-prized dabai, plentiful in the central region of the state.

Durian varieties

The durian, with its distinctive pungent aroma, remains an acquired taste for some locals, and many, many non-locals.

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are over 200 varieties that it has registered, with the Musang King (D197) being prominent amongst them.

There are also the Black Thorn (D200), Johor Mas (D168) and the D101, cultivated in Sarawak from imported planting materials.

Based on the research done by CNATV Singapore in terms of nutritional value, the Black Thorn has been assessed as the best.

However, most Sarawakians would claim that our native durian is far better than those hybridised either by Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), or by the Thai authorities relevant to agriculture.

Our durian lovers are willing to travel all the way to Bau, Lundu and Sematan, even far up to the central region, to hunt for the best ‘King of Fruits’.

Still on this thorny fruit, a former colleague Tie Tai Huong invited me to taste a cross-bred variety at his orchard.

It got me intrigued as the fruit was average in size but once it was cracked open, the flesh was red in colour, firm and thick. I got some budded plants for planting already. I was lucky to be able to taste such a wonderful fruit during a recent trip to Sibu.

It is durians galore in most parts of Sarawak now.

And there is the subject of jungle durian. In Sarawak, there are five varieties of jungle durian: ‘durian ukak’ (durio kutejensis), durian ‘isu’ or ‘hutan’ (durio oxleyamus), durio graveolens (with orange flesh), durian ‘kura-kura’ (durio testudinarius) and durian ‘kulit merah’ with red spikes (durio dulcis).

These jungle durians are candy-like sweet and unlike the regular ones, they are almost odourless and less ‘heaty’.

However, they are not easy to find and thus, are much pricier – at least RM20 per fruit. My relative took his Chinese counterpart from China from Kuching to Lachau looking for these fruits.

Not only that, the jungle durians do not have as many flesh lobes as the cultivated durians. Most of the time, each fruit may only have four lobes, whereas an orchard durian can have four lobs per segment of the fruit.

There are wild-farm hybrids like the DG25 Suluk and the Suluk King (DG5) but unfortunately, they are yet to be widely available at the market.

At the Lachau Market, there are also ‘cempedak’ – the much sweeter, stronger-smelling and creamier-fleshed cousin of the ‘nangka’, the typical jackfruit.

Dabai: The amazing ‘black gold’ 

When talking about this year’s bountiful fruit harvest, I must not leave out dabai.

The Canarium odontophyllum, from the Burseraceae family, can be planted from the seeds – the only thing is that it can be very uncertain if the tree would be a male or a hermaphrodite.

Typically, it is budded planting, which should bear fruit after five years. On this, I must inform you that a budding tree can be very expensive, at over RM200 each, but I also assure you that it is worth the investment.

As many would have known, farmers can make good money out of good-quality dabai yields.

In relation to this, I must mention that the Agriculture Department has introduced high-quality clones named ‘Clone Lulong’ and ‘Clone Laja’.

My friend Tie has sent some batches to Kuching, and everyone is happy in getting to taste real good-quality fruits.

Happy Gardening!