The Chemistry Behind the World’s Worst-Smelling Fruit

Michele Debczak
iStock / iStock

Durian is hailed by many in southeast Asia as “The King of Fruits.” It’s also been banned in many public spaces in the region for having a pungent odor that’s reminiscent of “the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction,” as one French naturalist put it. So what is it about that delicacy that elicits such strong responses?

According to the PBS web series Reactions, the answer lies in durian’s chemistry. Sulfur is present in some of the key molecules that give the fruit its distinct scent. This chemical element is often described as having a rotten egg smell, and can be found in poisonous gas, rancid meat, and other places we’ve evolved to avoid.

Despite smelling like something that’s long-dead, durian still attracts passionate fans with its fruity taste and custardy texture. If you’ve never had durian before, check out the full video from Reactions below and decide whether or not it’s worth a taste.

[h/t Reactions]