Just like the fruit itself, Jakarta’s nickname of the “Big Durian” reflects life in the city. It is thorny on the outside but full of sweet promises on the inside. And like the city itself, the potent smell of the durian fruit makes people either love it or detest it.
In this wet season, the fruits can be spotted on the city’s sidewalks and in its markets. Jakartans know that it is now the durian season, and the fruit is selling like hotcakes in the city. Some people would even fight over it.
But even though Jakarta is nicknamed the Big Durian, the fruit doesn’t grow in the city.
Types of Durian are named after the place where they are grown. There are several kinds of durian that are popular: Lampung durian, Medan durian, Palembang durian. But there are also some varieties that bear special names, such as Petruk durian from Jepara, Central Java, and Hepe durian from Cileungsi, West Java.
Jayadi, a durian seller in Palmerah, Central Jakarta, said that since December last year many customers had started to look for durian from Sumatra. “In my stall, durian from Palembang is always more popular than durian from Pandeglang,” he said.
The thick, sweet meat of the durian that, once ripe, had fallen from the tree, made it taste better, Jayadi said.
Durians from Pandeglang, he said, were usually picked by the farmer. “The price of the Palembang durian is between Rp 20,000 (US$ 2.23) Rp 25,000 each,” he said, adding that usually the season for Palembang durian would last for about four months.
Jayadi received the spiky fruits from a supplier in Meruya, West Jakarta. The supplier dropped off the fruit every three days, as it could only last for a maximum of four days. Besides Palembang, other varieties of durian from Sumatra can also be found easily during this wet season.
Another durian seller, Muri, said that in the past few weeks, more people had bought durian at the stall and preferred to enjoy the fruit on the spot. “More customers like to eat durian here with their families or friends. This was rarely the case months ago, or when during the season for durian from Solo [Surakarta] or Semarang,” he said.
“The price of durian from Central Java is usually more expensive, but the quality is better. But only a handful of customers don’t mind the price,” Muri said.
He said that 80 percent of durian displayed at his stall could be sold in three days, while the remaining 20 percent was disposed of.
Asih Pertiwi, 32, also noticed that more fruit stalls near her house in Kalimalang, East Jakarta, were now displaying durian. “I saw only two or three stalls that sold durian before, but I guess from January I’ve noticed at least 10 stalls selling durian,” Asih said. The sight attracted her so much that she decided to buy two durian fruits three days ago.
“My favorite is durian from Lampung. I bought two for Rp 35,000 each. They were big, sweet but a little bitter, possibly due to over fermentation. That’s exactly the best part of the durian,” she said.
The good business of durian in the city, however, does not always bring something good. Last week, members of a Betawi group reportedly clashed with a local youth organization, purportedly over the protection of a durian stall on Jl. Rawasari in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta.
Members of both organizations asked a durian seller for protection money. The seller felt he could not pay both of them. The seller told one of the groups about the problem, which enraged the other group and led to the series of clashes.
Just like durian, Jakarta has its thorny and sweet sides.