Durians and Elections

This year’s durian season in Penang is pretty much over and as of August 1st there isn’t much left and most of what remains isn’t very good. However this year’s season was a good one so despite wishing it could continue I am grateful that we were able to enjoy a solid 3 months of delicious and reasonably priced durian during the COVID induced movement control order or “MCO”. Since June 10th we have been in the recovery phase of the MCO and currently all businesses and schools are open however all must abide by a list of standard operating procedures designed to reduce viral transmission, moreover masks in public places are mandatory and violators can and have been fined.

With only around 125 deaths in a country of nearly 32 million people Malaysia like its neighbor to the north Thailand has fared extremely well during this pandemic thanks to decisive government action and people following the rules, wearing masks, and social distancing. I hope countries that are not faring so well will learn from the countries that are. I also hope that the citizens of these ill-faring countries, e.g., The U.S. and Brazil, will be sure to vote out the politicians, e.g., Trump and Bolsonaro, and political parties, e.g., The Republican Party, whose irrational skepticism and inaction has impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and has made the COVID crisis and the Climate crisis significantly worse.


For me premium durian is like creamy bitter sweet chocolate pudding with nutty and sulfuric undertones that will leave your taste buds in bliss and the rest of your mouth with a pleasant sensation of slight numbness provided you’re lucky enough to get one that’s just taken a hard fall from a good tree. Depending on the species, cultivar, and age of the tree there’s a wide variety of durian scents and flavors not to mention textures, colors, shapes, and sizes. There’s also a wide range of quality much of which depends on whether a durian was cut from a tree unripe and consumed days or weeks after harvest and if ripening chemicals were used, or whether it dropped from the tree naturally and fully ripe and was consumed within minutes or hours after harvest.

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Durian Liars

Before you try buying a Mao Shan Wang durian just know that many durian sellers have no qualms about lying to your face and ripping you off so be sure to do your research before throwing down big money on a durian they tell you is tree ripened and freshly fallen Mao Shan Wang but is really just some imported and extremely overpriced Chanee that was cut down partially ripe from a tree in Thailand a week ago. If you’re interested in not being ripped off by durian sellers check out this article.

Papaya: Where Do You Get Your Calcium?

I had a nice tree ripened papaya for breakfast today which is great for your teeth particularly if you have eaten something too acidic the day before. It weighed 2700g and after I cut it in half lengthwise and scraped it clean with my papaya shovel it yielded around 2200g of pulp. Papaya shovels aka stainless steel Chinese spoons are the perfect tool for eating papaya, melons, or any other fruit that’s soft enough to be scooped out of it’s peel and I highly recommend them.

Today’s papaya provided around 880 calories which is less than half of what I’d need to eat on an inactive day like today however it provided more than half of the calcium I’ll need for the day. I’m not sure exactly how much calcium I need, I’ve never tested low for it in any of my blood tests, but I’m pretty sure it’s not too much more than 530mg especially when that 530mg comes from such an easily digested and absorbed source.

khake dam papayakhake dam papaya cut

P.S. Months later I made another trip to the morning market in search of breakfast and as usual I walked through to see what was available in the front, center, and back before I decided on what to eat. Early in I spotted two nice papayas which were not one of the commonly available cultivars so I made a mental note and continued on. After confirming there wasn’t anything better up ahead I went back to buy the papayas only to find that the seller had covered up his goods and left at lightening speed. I knew those papayas were still under that tarp so I asked the guy in the next stall to sell them to me and tell his friend the next day.

As he opened the tarp I saw that the papayas were gone, bummer. However as I let my head down in disappointment I noticed a garbage basket and at the top of the heap of decaying plant matter and random market garbage were the two papayas, hooooooo! So I took them both and got a free breakfast. I guess the guy figured they were already ripe and since most Thai people aren’t into ripe fruit and prefer what are often sweeter yet less tasty fruit cultivars over the often less sweet but more fragrant and tasty heirloom, nameless, and unidentifiable varieties he figured they weren’t worth holding onto and having take up prime table space.

Plantains: Why Are You Cooking Them?

Once while transporting some plantains a middle-aged lady that I often bought fruit from thought it was crazy that I was going to eat them raw. So I asked her “You’ve lived here your entire life and have been around these things for many years yet you’ve never thought to try and eat one of them ripe and raw? Nope, not once! I am writing this for people like her and people who only just heard about plantains in order to say: Yes you can eat plantains raw and they’re quite good so ignore those who say things like a plantain needs to be “cooked before serving as it is unsuitable raw”… not surprisingly this was said by a company that sells processed plantain chips, go figure.

While writing this post I remembered an email I sent to the Chiquita Banana Company regarding the information on their plantain website a few years ago so I just went to it to see if it had been updated. It hasn’t been so one of the main companies importing these bananas into the U.S. is still unaware that plantains can, and I would argue should be, eaten raw. Instead they tell people to cook their bananas and provide recipes so people can eat them with bacon, cheese, slave caught shrimp, and factory farmed chicken. I grabbed the following screen shot from their website which out of all the plantain recipes and information does not say anywhere that plantains can be eaten raw, in fact it specifically says ” Eaten cooked (not raw)”.
Leave me alone, let me ripen, and eat me raw!I haven’t had any plantains in a long time as they’re hard to come by in my area however I was fortunate enough to encounter a bunch that was in my opinion harvested way too early considering it was going to be consumed locally and didn’t need to be shipped across an ocean. However after sitting in my room for a week a few ripened to the point I could start eating them. Today is day 14 and the five that remain are fully ripe. Note that when I bought this bunch of unripe bananas I did not cut them from the stem and instead let them drain the once thick and heavy green stem like Cell drained Piccolos arm. The result is a shriveled stem and some really good bananas despite having been harvested a bit too early. Here are some photos I’ve taken over the past two weeks.

plantain bunch day 1plantain bunch ripe day 14plantain ripeness and sizeplantain ripe

It’s Not an Apple!

Sugar apple, custard apple, water apple, star apple, velvet apple… None of these fruits taste like or resemble an apple so lets stop calling them apples. There’s no need to be so primitive in our use of language that we must always combine two familiar words to name something as some things are worthy of their own names. To me these apple-ending names are as ridiculous as fuzzy apple for peaches and baby apple for cherries so here are some better names for English speakers to use and links to photos:

sugar apple = sweetsop (there’s also a soursop)
custard apple = cherimoya (related to the above two along with atemoya and a rollinia)

water apple, wax apple, rose apple, java apple = bellfruit (there are many different types and closely related fruits)

star apple = cainito (related to sapodilla, canistel, and abiu)

velvet apple = mabolo (related to persimmon and black sapote aka chocolate pudding fruit)

I’ve been fortunate enough to have tried them all however there are even more, many more, delicious and nutritious fruits that I haven’t tried and I hope they don’t go extinct due to humanities love of meat, palm oil, and burning fossil fuels all of which are responsible for the deforestation and climate change that is killing off much of the biodiversity on this planet.

Fruit Warning For Thailand Tourists

In Thailand many of the locals prefer to eat unripe fruit. For instance mangoes are often eaten green, hard, and tooth meltingly sour. I do cringe a little when I see locals eating unripe mangoes, jackfruit, bananas, santols, and pieces of durian that look more like raw potato than durian but what really gets me is when tourists come to Thailand and try these fruits for the first and perhaps last time but are given unripe fruit not worth eating.

If you try durian in Thailand for the first time you’ll probably buy a small plastic wrapped pack of it rather than a whole fruit so here are three tips for selecting some durian that’s worth trying. I don’t endorse buying anything on or in foam packing so if possible try and buy durian that’s packed on paper but know you probably won’t find any so you should just bring your own reusable food container and have the seller open a fresh ripe one and sell you some of that or you could just buy a whole durian which comes packaged in a biodegradable spiked shell.

1.) Color: The color of durian flesh ranges from white to red however odds are the type of durian you’ll encounter in Thailand is MonThong. When it comes to this cultivar of durian generally speaking the yellower the better however note that many cultivars of durian are supposed to be white or close to it.

2.) Softness: Don’t squeeze ripe fruits! I can’t believe how many tourists I’ve seen squeezing ripe fruit or poking dents into it and then walking away without buying it. However you can very slightly press on the plastic wrap covering the durian with your finger tip just enough to know whether or not it’s soft.

3.) Smell: If all that stands between you and a piece of fresh ripe durian is a thin layer of plastic it should give off a strong smell and make you understand why durian is banned from most hotels and public transportation. If you’re only getting a slight smell or no smell it’s probably unripe durian which isn’t worth trying.

In summary if you visit Thailand and would like to try some durian make sure it passes the three checks above and if you see some that looks like the unripe, overpriced, inedibly bad stuff below it’s best to pass and wait for a better chance to try this must try fruit. Also feel free to let the fruit seller know that you’d like to buy some durian provided it was soft and ripe so they understand that unlike many of the locals most people prefer ripe, sweet, fragrant, and in the case of durian, very soft fruit.

underripe-overpriced-inedibly-bad-thai-durianIf you want to see what durian is supposed to look like check out this post.

P.S. Rambutans should be red, not green, when you eat them. There are yellow rambutans but you’re unlikely to come across those in Thailand. However you will see people selling unripe green ones which I don’t recommend.




Noni No Thanks

Noni, also known as “vomit fruit” is without question the most disgusting whole plant food I have ever come across. In fact I can’t even think of another whole plant food that could be placed in the same leg weakening gag inducing category as noni. It really is that bad, not something you can get used to and even learn to enjoy but just plain bad. Normally when out for a walk if I come across a fruit tree with some tree-ripened freshly fallen fruit on the ground next to it I’m pretty excited but not the other night, however I did grab one and got noni juice on my hand and my knife in order to take this photo.


P.S. I just returned from the supermarket and on my way to the vegetable section as nasty as noni is, and it is nasty, I passed by something much worse, smelt like rotting mammal flesh… oh wait it was rotting mammal flesh. Whoever buys that stuff is going to need a lot of heat, salt, sugar, oil, and spices to make it edible. Right now you’re probably thinking I’m sure glad I eat a vegan diet or an ethical, sustainable, and healthy near-vegan diet; or perhaps you’re thinking well I don’t eat rotten flesh or flesh from any abused animal they didn’t have to kill in order to butcher and to that I reply sure you don’t.

rotten mammal flesh

Tamarind in the Tree

Tamarind is a sweet and sour tropical fruit with date like flesh which comes wrapped around a string of black seeds that are enclosed in a thin brown brittle shell. I came across a tree in the park yesterday and climbed up and helped myself. I also helped those below who weren’t keen on climbing but were into some free fruit by knocking down quite a few from the top since the low hanging ones had already been knocked down with a long pole over the past few weeks.

This is just another way we benefit from a stable climate which doesn’t bounce from extreme heat to extreme cold and from extreme drought to extreme rain and enables the fruit trees to consistently produce life supporting fruit without any assistance from us all while taking carbon out of the atmosphere and adding oxygen. Wow, if fruit trees are that awesome why are we cutting so many of them down including those which produce delicious and endangered fruits?

If you want to help curb deforestation eat more or all plants and less or no animals because a primary cause of deforestation is meat production as it takes a lot more land and fresh water, not to mention pesticides and chemical fertilizers, to grow enough plants to feed livestock to produce meat than it does to feed people directly. Also if you use any products which contain palm oil, which you do, please take a minute to contact the manufacturers of these products and demand that they purchase their palm oil from sustainable sources.

Freethought and Bananas

Where I live on the Kra Peninsula there are these awesome bananas which in Thai are called Kluai Heen which translates to Banana Heen. Most people around here feed Heen bananas to the poor birds they imprison in little cages which spend their days jumping from one side of the cage to the other probably imagining what it would be like to fly again. Because they lack of empathy and apparently have nothing better to do many of the local men often bring these poor birds to poor-bird-in-cage competitions where they see whose bird can cry “Let me out of this cage so I can fly!” the loudest.

Since most people consider them bird food when people see a foreigner eating a hand of Heen bananas they’re a bit surprised. In the area I’m referring to people do eat them but it seems rarely unless they’ve been cooked. One day I was looking to buy breakfast from a roadside fruit stall and I saw a hand of ripe Heen bananas in the back. I asked if I could buy them and she said they weren’t any good. When I insisted she said I could have them so I started eating my banana breakfast. I rarely eat bananas for breakfast as I prefer more juicy fruits in the morning but that day I was happy to make an exception.

After eating one and confirming my prediction I told her they were awesome and offered her to try one but she gave me a slight “surprised/you’re crazy look” and refused. She said they were no good because those bananas have to be cooked before you can eat them and only birds would eat them like that. I asked her if she had tried ones that are ripe and she said “No.”. So I asked her how she knew they were no good and she said “Because my husband told me.”, so I asked her if he had tried them and she said “No.”, so I asked how would he know and she said “The elders told him”.

The point of this post is to remind anyone who reads it not to blindly accept the assessments of perceived figures of authority and instead think for yourself, do your own research, and when applicable/safe do your own experiments and who knows maybe one day it might even score you a free breakfast.

banana heen

Bargain Bananas

Whenever I have the chance I try to teach people how to eat fruit… when it’s ripe, however I must say I do benefit from the fruit ignorance of the average person because it often gets me awesome discounts on premium ripe fruit. Today’s discounted fruit was Namwa bananas, probably my favorite type of banana. Saying these things put Cavendish bananas to shame is an understatement. Today I got a 66% discount and last week on some that were slightly riper than these I got a 100% discount however I still gave a tip to show my appreciation.

In today’s case these bananas weren’t even on display, they were behind the sellers table in a crate as the seller had already decided to compost them because she said no one would buy bananas like these and felt it wasn’t even worth displaying them next to the 70 and 80% ripe ones. I said get them bananas on this table and give’em a chance! Who knows maybe another oddball like me who eats ripe bananas will be happy to buy some at a 66% discount. She did put them on the table but I doubt she sold any because the average person would rather eat yellow/green bananas than yellow/brown or yellow/black ones.

Anyway I just wanted to remind you to keep your eyes open for discarded fruit and encourage you, when practical, to feed yourself with cheap, healthy, and delicious things that would have otherwise gone to the trash can or compost pile.

Namwa Bananas