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What gives the durian fruit its rotting stench?

Durian fruit is known by many in Asia as the "king of fruits."

By Brooks Hays
What gives the durian fruit its rotting stench?
Chemists in Germany believe two main compounds are responsible for the food's odor: a fruity ethyl (2S)-2-methylbutanoate and an oniony 1-(ethylsulfanyl)ethane-1-thiol. Pictured, a man examines the selection of durian fruit at a market in Singapore. Photo by Stephen Morrison/European Pressphoto Agency

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- The smell of the durian fruit's flesh has been likened to raw sewage, gym socks, turpentine and rotten onions. What accounts for the fruit's unique stench?

Chemists in Germany believe two main compounds are responsible for the food's odor: a fruity ethyl (2S)-2-methylbutanoate and an oniony 1-(ethylsulfanyl)ethane-1-thiol.

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Researchers at the German Research Center for Food Chemistry in Freising, Germany, screened volatile compounds emitted by durian pulp using aroma extract dilution analysis and gas chromatography-olfactometry. They isolated 19 compounds and graded the strength of each.

Scientists likened the smell of the strongest compounds to fruit, rotten onion and roasted onion. Less pungent compounds recalled cabbage and sulfur. Ethyl (2S)-2-methylbutanoate and 1-(ethylsulfanyl)ethane-1-thiol were the most durian-like of all the analyzed smells. When paired together, the two compounds replicated the smell of durian fruit almost exactly.

Durian fruits, of which there are many varieties, are grown on large trees in Southeast Asia. Durian is known by many in the region as the "king of fruits." The fruit's appearance is pineapple-like -- a spiky cantaloupe, almost -- and its flesh is a pale yellow-orange. Despite its odor -- some people find the odor pleasing -- the fruit is much loved for its flavor.

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Researchers detailed their durian analysis in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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