THE AMAZING COCONUT
Many of us get introduced to the coconut in the form of the bagged, shredded coconut used in baking. That is too bad, as the coconut is one of the most amazing fruits in the world. Its nutritional value is such that people in areas where food is scarce, can survive by eating just coconuts. The great variety of minerals found in the fruit makes it useful in fighting infection and in re-hydrating people.
I have a personal story on the anti-bacterial properties of coconut water. Many years ago, while in Grenada, I developed a urinary tract infection. The people who took care of me gave me gallons of coconut water to drink. While I love the stuff, I was a bit dubious on the efficacy of it to fight the infection. I called my doctor and sure enough, he confirmed that this was true.
The many products made from coconut include supports for buildings, roofing thatch, rope, caulking, bowls as well as hats.
Coconuts are classified as either young or mature.
The young coconut is green or yellow on the outside, the mature one is brown. Young nuts contain a clear liquid inside, called coconut water which is drunk as a refreshing drink or as an antiviral drink or an immune system booster. Coconut water is available in the US in ethnic grocery stores
When the nut is a bit more mature, in addition to the water, the insides contain a jelly, delicious to eat, in many countries given to babies as their first semi solid food.
I know a young man who brings me water nuts or jelly nuts regularly and I can eat myself sick on the jelly.
The mature nut also contains the liquid but much less of it, more concentrated, sweeter. This is not to be confused with coconut milk, which is the liquid obtained by grating the meat of the mature coconut, adding water and pressing the liquid out. The resulting white, opaque liquid is the coconut milk, used in cooking. I add it to peas (which are a bit tougher than the peas we know) and in salt fish pie. It’s also one of the main ingredients of the national dish of Grenada –oil down- which has nothing to do with either oil or down or any other direction.
Coconut oil is also made by processing the meat from inside the mature nut. Of the commercially available products, care must be taken that the oil is processed without chemicals.
The coconut has a long history, going back some 3,000 years. As with many foods, there’s no agreement on where it originates but most agree it came from Malaysia, Indonesia, India and East Africa about the same time.
The explorer Marco Polo mentions it in the 13th century but it is Magellan who is generally credited with bringing the coconut to Europe in the early 16th century. The name comes from “coco” meaning goblin in Spanish, as there are 3 eyes at the bottom of the mature nut.
By the mid to late 19th century, there was a brisk trade in coconuts in Europe. However, it did not come to the US until 1895 when a baker in Philadelphia came up with the idea of shredding it and using it for baking.
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