Durians were the ostensive goal of a stopover by the Karak Highway after a soggy day in the Lentang Forest Reserve. But this produce stall flanking a Chinese restaurant near the Selesa Hill Homes offered a bounty that duly distracted me from the thorny king of fruits. The village harvest included pineapples, bananas, coconuts, soursop, passionfruit, melons, mangosteens and longans, while nameless foragers in the surrounding forest had yielded strings of stinkbeans and bottles of wild honey.
The fruit here is fresh and brandless. With no pedigree to command a premium or warrant the protection of a soft package, the strains on offer sold for less than a song. I asked the price of this bunch in warm red. Three ringgit (US$0.93), said the lady. Peeled, the flesh within bore a slight hue of blush and melted into sweet mush in the mouth, helping to wash down the pungent strength of savoury Durio pulp.
Despite the proprietor's claims, the absence of seeds suggests the bananas are far from wild stock. But they, and their golden kin hanging from the same weathered beam, were still a welcome sight in an age of factory farms and plantations where every batch is processed, sorted and squandered to satisfy a craving for flawless clones. It doesn't pay, does it, to be different and face the pain of rejection by people who fail to recognise the cost of genetic resilience and desire nothing less than more of the same. It's what you get when you are willing to pay a mere pittance for the thin cream of a homogenous crop boasting perfection that's merely skin deep.