To the casual observer, one durian fruit may look pretty much like any other, but not so to Lay Samoer. The farmer points to one of the several durians she has arranged on her small roadside stall.
“This one is number one quality,” she says.
I can only notice a slight difference in the shade of green between this fruit and the others she has displayed in her stall, but Lay Samoer assures me that it has nothing to do with the colouring.
“This one comes from a different tree,” she says, explaining there are two types of durian trees.
Lay Samoer should know. The farmer has been growing the pungent fruit on her small orchard in the village of Snam Prampi some 4 kilometres from the town of Kampot for 30 years.
“At the moment I have 60 durian trees,” she says. “The best season for picking durian is after Khmer New Year.”
Larger trees can grow up to 100 fruit, which she sells for 6,000 or 7,000 riel per kilogramme in season, although out of season they can fetch up to $5. Normally she only sells to passing tourists, but in season she also sells to markets in Phnom Penh.
Lay Samoer does not know why the durian in Kampot tastes better than other parts of the country, although she believes it might be due to the lack of chemical fertiliser they use.
As for the distinctive taste and aroma, Lay Samoer is a fan.
“I like durian. It is sweet and full of flavour and the smell is very good,” she says. “But during the durian season I cannot eat it because I am full up with the smell alone. When we have a lot of durian I am not hungry.”
Traditionally trade is good, although Lay Samoer is not optimistic about the current year.
“Whatever we produce we sell out,” she says. “This year might not be so good because we lost a lot of durian flowers.”
Lay Samoer plans to increase the number of trees she has as well as replacing the trees that die. However, this is a lengthy process as it takes from five to seven years for a tree to mature.
“In the first five years we only have a few fruit, but after that we have a lot,” she says.
INTERPRETER: RANN REUY