Today we have a guest post by my husband, Manny (read his rarely updated blog here). This one’s about coconuts, which we’ve discovered are nothing less than miracle trees! Enjoy his post!
Prior to coming to the Cook islands, I had little knowledge of coconuts.
As a child, I remember we’d pick one up from the supermarket every 6 or 7 years. And during summer trips to Greece, I’d see vendors on the streets of Athens with these elaborate carts, selling pieces of coconut displayed on some sort of extravagant water fountain-type apparatus.
More recently, I had been exposed to the wonders of drinking young coconut water, particularly after I started using it as a post-workout drink.
In Toronto (my old hometown) you can buy it in cans or cartons at a Caribbean fast food join, convenience store, or at a health food store (where they sometimes rip you off with a dubious ‘organic’ label).
Out here in the South Pacific, and probably many other places around the equator, the coconut means so much more.
First things first, that little coconut you buy at the supermarket? Yeah, that’s what it is – a nut. It is what’s inside a much larger package, and you get to it by husking the coconut … I’ll get to this a little later.
In the Cooks, we drink Nu, which is young coconut water. They sell husked coconuts at the market for $3 bucks a pop. I buy them, and usually feel stupid for doing so because I pass a couple hundred palm trees on the way there, each one loaded with about a dozen or so coconuts. But they are high up in the tree, and I haven’t learned to climb …yet.
Regardless, lately I’ve started employing a more do-it-yourself attitude with coconuts.
I don’t know how to husk a coconut properly yet, so to get at the actual nuts, I hack at the damn things with my Brazillian-made machete in a manner that would disturb a psychopathic killer. After 1-2 hours, I get to the nut and once there, I know what to do.
You find the eye of the coconut, dig at it with a knife, stick in a straw, and start drinking the most wonderful, cool, subtly sweet, hydrating beverage you ever had.
Hungover? Nu is necessity. And as previously mentioned, it’s nature’s own Gatorade.
But don’t throw that nut out when you’re done drinking. Crack er’ open and inside is some wonderfully tender coconut ‘meat’. Scoop it out with a spoon and eat, or add to some paw-paw (papaya) and you got yourself a nice fruit salad.
Above, I’m talking about green coconuts, but there’s also the old, dried-up brown ones. Those are the ones with that nice, firm ‘meat’ – the type you find at your average North American supermarket. They’re also grated, dried, and sold in little packages, as well as being chopped up and covered in chocolate and sold as Bounty candy bars. And you can’t forget coconut milk/crème, which is pressed from grated coconut meat.
Lastly, there’s uto nuts – a real delicacy. Some of the brown ones, upon falling, start “sprouting” – shoots start coming out of the eye.
Cracked open, the meat and the milk become spongy, kind of like a moist marshmellow. This can be eaten raw or cooked, and the shoot can be chewed on, which has a nice sweet taste. I’ve had pancakes made out of them, and they’re so delicious you don’t need to add any type of syrup. Make no mistake though, I miss me my maple syrup!
Uto’s are said to be extremely nutritious, but coconuts at each stage are supposed to have different health-enhancing properties.
Adding to the above, you have coconut oils for cooking and skincare, and coconut husk fibre used to make hats, clothes, table coverings, etc. Women even use the shells for bikini tops.
Although there is tremendous utility in the coconut, the sad part is that they can also hurt you.
That thing about watching out for falling coconuts? Ain’t no joke. I’ve had three encounters already, and each time I’m pretty sure I would have been knocked out cold if I was standing a couple meters in the wrong direction.