Beyond Coconut Oil

When I was a little girl growing up in the countryside of the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, coconut trees were a very common site in everyone’s back yards as well as many other tropical fruit trees. I remember sometimes, on a hot day, we would gather in the shade of the coconut trees in the back yard and my dad would pick coconuts and get out the ‘cutlass’ /’machete’ and we would all enjoy coconut water right out of the shell through a hole in the top.

My dad would then split the empty nut into two equal parts like two bowls and fashion a spoon out of the outside of the shell so we could scoop out all the delicious goodness of the ‘coconut jelly’ (coconut meat). Sounds complicated but my dad did this in seconds without a second thought.

Nowadays because of a new level of health and longevity consciousness and the increasing search for healthy foods, coconuts have gained a high place for its considerable nutritional value. Coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut butter, or cream of coconut. What is the difference? Here are some ways the whole coconut is used and enjoyed:

Coconut Water: Coconut water is the clear liquid that is contained within the shell. It is naturally refreshing and has a sweet and nutty taste. The water from a young nut will be less sweet and get sweeter as the nut matures. It is an excellent source of electrolytes, potassium, antioxidants and has less sugar than many sports drinks and much less sugar than sodas and some fruit juices.

Coconut water and milk

Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is prepared from the meat of a mature nut. When a nut is full grown but still green there is more water contained inside and the meat is thinner and has the consistency of ‘jello’. As the nut matures the meat gets thicker and stiffer and eventually gains a consistency close to that of raw almonds. It is at this stage that the meat can be grated, then water is added and the white liquid that is expressed is coconut milk. Coconut milk is mostly used for cooking and is very popular in many Caribbean and Asian dishes. A diluted form of coconut milk is also available to have with cereal as a substitute for people who may be lactose intolerant.

Cream of Coconut: Cream of coconut is produced when the coconut milk is condensed and sweetened and is used mostly in deserts and drinks like Pina Coladas.

Pina Colada

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is produced by separating the oil from the milk of the mature nut. It is used for cooking, body lotions and hair products. It is one of the healthier oils used in cooking and may have the remnant taste of coconuts and so may alter or enhance the taste of certain foods.

Coconut Butter: Usually about 60% coconut oil, and 40% coconut meat. This option gives you more fiber and nutrition than using the oil by itself, which has been completely separated or exacted out of the rest of the coconut.

Coconut Husk: Coconut husk is the outer roughest part of the coconut which is fibrous and is used for making house hold articles and crafts such as furniture, brooms, ropes, mats and decorative items like shrunken heads or figurines. It is also used for gardening, including chips, dust and fiber.

Coconut Branches: Yes even the coconut branches have excellent uses. The ‘Cocoyea’ broom – pronounced coke-e-yea, is a traditional garden broom in Trinidad and Tobago and is also used in other Caribbean islands and Asia. It is fashioned from downed coconut branches. The leaves are peeled off then the vein of the leaf is separated from the greenery. When a large enough bundle is collected, according to the size of the broom desired, the larger and firmer end is packed tightly and evenly and tied off firmly. A ‘Cocoyea’ broom may be between 2 and 3 feet long depending on the length of the coconut leaves and is quick and effective for sweeping large outdoor areas around the house or the backyard garden.

Coconut Shell: The shell is the hardest part of the nut and it is the part that we scoop the coconut meat out of. This is the part that is carved, ground, painted and polished to make beautiful art, trinkets, purses and fashion jewelry.

Coconut Husk Decor

A couple of our favorite alternative coconut products include Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream, and Tula’s Coco Kefir. Definitely check them out and start consuming more coconut!

Post by Karen

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