- Easy Way to Open a Coconut
- How to Choose a Coconut and How to Open it
- Watch how to open a coconut and make seasoned coconut chips
- How to choose a Fresh Coconut
- 2. Look at the eyes of the coconut.
- 3. Search for cracks, mold, and wet areas.
- 4. When in doubt, choose the heavier coconut for its size.
- Now that you’ve chosen a good coconut, here’s how to open it.
- 5 easy steps to choose correctly
- Tips to choosing the best coconut water
- All You Need to Know About Green Coconut
- difference between a brown coconut and a green coconut?
- Origins of Coconut
- Coconut Basics 101
- The Tree of Life
- Top 5 Coconut Producers in the World
- The Future of Coconuts
- The best places to drink out of a coconut
- Types of Coconuts
- Fresh Coconut
- Brown Coconut
- Fresh Young Coconuts
- Mutant Gelatinous Coconut
- Buying & Storing Coconuts
- Preparing Coconuts
- Fresh Young Coconut
Easy Way to Open a Coconut
I spent a lot of time trying to find an easy way to open a coconut when I was a kid.
I tried chopping it with a machete, sawing it with a steak knife, hammering at it with a hammer and big screwdriver and other painstaking pursuits.
The best way seemed to be to cut a series of cuts from the stem portion of the nut down the sides through the husk and in towards the hard wooden center, then to rip chunks off.
Then I saw Kent at The Fruit and Spice Park demonstrate that method much more elegantly than my machete hacking attempts of the past. He graciously allowed me to film his demo and gave me permission to post it online.
Check out his easy method for opening a coconut:
Now that’s an easy way to open a coconut.
I happen to utterly love coconut palms and hope to soon live in a more tropical location where I can grow them on my property. If you’ve only tasted dry, stale coconut shreds, you have no idea how hearty and delicious a fresh coconut can be.
The biggest issue is just getting the darned thing open.
I actually own the KaBar knife that Kent mentions in the video. It’s marvelous and would make a great Christmas present for the psychopath knife enthusiast in your life.
Check it out:
I should review this knife at some point. Just seeing it on Amazon makes me want to buy another one. It holds an edge amazingly (I’ve used it for butchering chickens and rabbits), plus it’s got some heft and thickness to it that is perfect, as Kent states, for opening coconuts.
Where was I?
I got lost in knife land for a minute there. Sorry.
Anyhow, that’s the easy way to open a coconut.
If you missed my previous video from the Fruit and Spice Park, you can see that here.
And if you live anywhere that’s tropical, I hope you’re growing at least a couple of coconut palms. The coconut water is a health tonic, the nutmeat is delicious, and nothing says “tropical” like palm fronds swaying in the breeze.
“It’s like a mini spaceship,” Kai McPhee, the owner of Maui’s Punakea Palms Coconut Farm, says while eyeing the coconut he’s tossing up and down.
I don’t really know what he means, but I agree anyway. The one thing a coconut has in common with a UFO is that no one knows anything about it. Sitting in cannon ball-like piles in the supermarket, fresh (which should be in quotation marks, but we’ll get to that later) coconut has to be one of the least understood things in the world of groceries. No one knows what to do with it, much less how to open it.
That’s where McPhee comes in. He’s a self-styled coconut evangelist, and his pulpit is the grove his father planted on their property longer than 13 years ago. He’s on a mission to educate the world (or at least those who visit his native Maui) on all things coconut.
RELATED The Real Difference Between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream “
“What most people think of as a coconut is actually the inner kernel inside the husk of a mature coconut,” Kai says, standing in the grove wearing an Aloha shirt and a wide-brimmed hat made from coconut fronds as he fiddles with a machete. “That’s because cartoonists have drawn them that way, growing on the tree.” (It’s true: Everyone from Patrick on SpongeBob SquarePants to Scooby-Doo has been conked on the head from falling, impossibly round coconuts.) The coconut, as it turns out, is many things, depending on when you harvest it. “Every 28 days, a new coconut blossoms on the tree,” he says. “It takes about 14 months for it to fully mature, and they change a lot during the process.”
During a tour of the farm, you’ll go through that process: tasting, feeling and exploring the coconut at each stage. First is the young green coconut, at six to seven months old—this is where the coconut water you know from health-elixir-craze fame comes from. Here, there’s hardly any coconut meat, and what’s there is jellylike—spoonable even. At eight months, there’s less water and the coconut flesh becomes what’s called “rubber meat”—it’s almost translucent and can be shaved into thin, wiggly strips. (L.A.-based gluten-free pasta makers, take note.) In fact, McPhee makes a faux fried calamari from the meat that he swears by. Not having had it, I’ll swear by it, too—it’s still fried after all.
As the coconut gets older, the water dries up while the flesh becomes thicker and fattier. Once I understand this, I start to think of a coconut as more of a cocoon. It eventually becomes entirely brown—looking like an oversize American football—and falls from the tree, ready to be wrenched open. Inside is the familiar brown sphere, ready to break open. McPhee recommends tools, but my favorite way to crack the case? Put it in a towel, gather the edges so you can swing it like a pendulum and whack it on the floor. Comes right open.
The fallen coconuts that get left on the ground sprout to create more trees, continuing the cycle. “It’s the tree of life—the floor of our grove is one giant, green, gorgeous recycling bin,” McPhee says, looking over his farm. “You can’t recreate this kind of beauty.”
Todd Coleman is the creative director and editor at large for Tasting Table. Follow him on Instagram at @toddwcoleman.
Crack the Code
Kai McPhee, owner of Maui’s Punakea Palms Coconut Farm, is on a mission to educate the world (or at least those who visit his native Maui) on all things coconut.
A new coconut blossoms every 28 days on the tree, before maturing for an additional 14 months.
What most people think of as a coconut is actually the inner kernel inside the husk of a mature coconut.
As the coconut gets older, the water on the inside dries up, while the flesh becomes thicker and meatier.
As it ages, the flesh has enough fat to make coconut milk.
If you don’t have the proper tools to crack a mature coconut open, you can put it in a towel, gather the edges so you can swing it like a pendulum and whack it on the floor.
How to Choose a Coconut and How to Open it
Buying fresh coconuts can be intimidating and frustrating when you choose the wrong one. Let me show you how to choose a coconut that is fresh, and how to open it easily.
This summer I’ve been on a coconut kick. I’ve been drinking lots of coconut water, making all sorts of drinks and smoothies with coconut milk, and been snacking on homemade coconut chips. I’ve even been using the shell to make some fun crafts! I’ll be telling you about everything I’ve been making soon, but today I’d like to concentrate on how to choose a fresh coconut, and how to open it once you have it home.
To be honest, I stopped buying fresh coconuts for quite some time after buying way too many that were moldy and unusable. When you are paying over a Euro for a coconut, and then you can’t even use it, it’s very frustrating. The coconut water and meat of a bad coconut not only taste sour, but they are probably pretty unhealthy if you choose to continue to eat them anyway.
I got into the habit of buying dried shredded coconut for making coconut milk, coconut flour, and coconut butter, and bought coconut water in cans.
Watch how to open a coconut and make seasoned coconut chips
When I started getting questions about how to make coconut milk, coconut flour, and coconut butter using fresh coconuts from people in Latin American countries where it’s easier and cheaper to buy fresh coconuts than the dried, shredded variety, I decided I should give it a try. I began buying fresh coconuts again, and was just a lot more mindful about choosing them.
Ever since I’ve been pickier in my selection, I haven’t chosen a bad coconut yet! That’s not to say that you won’t occasionally pick a bad one even when looking them over well, but your chances are a lot higher that you’ll choose a fresh coconut.
How to choose a Fresh Coconut
When you shake the various coconuts available, you want to choose a coconut that has a lot of coconut water inside. If you find a coconut that doesn’t make a sloshing noise when shaken, do not choose it! Lots of coconut water is a good indication that the coconut is fresher. Those with less coconut water are more likely to have leaks or cracks where the coconut water has escaped, and mold may have gotten inside.
Plus, who doesn’t love having a lot of coconut water to drink?
2. Look at the eyes of the coconut.
I used to just go by the amount of coconut water, but I found that a lot of times coconuts with a lot of water could still have areas that were beginning to mold, and most often than not the main moldy area was near the soft eye of the coconut.
When looking at a coconut, you will notice that it has three eyes.
Not all of the eyes are equal, though. One of the eyes is softer than the others, and because the shell is much thinner in the area of the soft eye, it is often the first place to go bad. (It is also the ideal place to begin opening the coconut- which I’ll get to in a second.)
It may not be super obvious, but there is often a bit of greenish mold around at least one of the eyes of a coconut that is starting to go bad. Usually, when you open one of these coconuts, the water will be slightly sour and taste “off.” You can usually rinse and use most of the coconut in these cases, but you’ll have to discard any parts of the meat that are yellow (or any other color except white) and that don’t taste as they should.
3. Search for cracks, mold, and wet areas.
Apart from the eyes of the coconut, you can also sometimes find other moldy areas. You won’t usually see a full crack on a coconut that is full of water, but you may see small damp areas where a tiny hairline crack has begun to form.
Needless to say, don’t choose any coconuts with visible cracks, mold, or wet areas!
4. When in doubt, choose the heavier coconut for its size.
If you have followed the above tips and are still trying to decide between several coconuts that look pretty good all over, choose the one that is heaviest for its size.
It’s not always easy to tell which coconut is heaviest for its size, but if you are comparing two coconuts that seem the same size, choose the heaviest one. The logic here is that a heavier coconut likely has more coconut water inside and is, therefore, more likely to be freshest of the two.
If you follow those 4 tips, most of the time you should have chosen a good coconut.
If you do end up with a coconut with yellow areas or any other color than white, discard any of those areas. If your coconut only has a small area that seems off, you can taste a small piece from the areas of that are completely white, but if you find that they don’t taste right, discard the entire coconut. It’s always best to be safe than sorry!
Now that you’ve chosen a good coconut, here’s how to open it.
1. Pierce the soft coconut eye.
Look at the eyes of the coconut, and try to find which one is the soft eye. I can usually tell just by looking at the coconut which one will be the soft one because it looks slightly different than the rest. Usually the dark area around the soft eye is a bit bigger than the others, and the soft eye is often rounder and usually is rounded outwards.
I have a very thin knife which I use to gently make hole in the soft coconut eye by pressing the point of the knife into the eye, and making a turning movement to clear out the coconut meat until reaching the center. If you choose the wrong eye, you’ll find that it’s much too difficult to gently open it with a thin knife. In that case, try with a different eye. There are people that choose to open more than one eye, or all three, but you’ll usually need to open them with a screwdriver and a hammer. I personally, don’t find it necessary.
2. Drain the coconut water from the coconut.
Once you’ve made a hole through the meat of the coconut, you can either stick a straw into the coconut and drink the coconut water out, or flip the coconut over onto and empty glass and let the coconut water drain out. Don’t try to rush it out by pounding it against the glass. I’ve seen people break glasses that way! It will slowly run out on its own, even if you’ve only made one hole.
3. Crack the coconut open.
There are several ways to open a coconut.
If you have a hammer on hand, I have found the easiest method to open the coconut is to hold the coconut in your hand and hit the center of the coconut with the hammer repeatedly while turning it. By repeatedly hitting it around the center, it will begin to create a fracture line that will get bigger and bigger as you keep going around the coconut. The nice thing about this method is that you don’t need to use a lot of force when you hit the coconut. You just gently hit it repeatedly and eventually it will fracture, usually right around the line of where you continually hit it. (You do need to use a bit of force, though. Hit it hard enough so that it starts bouncing back at you, but not so hard that you hurt your hand!)
If you don’t have a hammer, you can throw the coconut down onto a cement floor or sidewalk. If you choose this method, you can try placing it in a bag first so that the coconut pieces don’t fly all over the place. You won’t end up with two nice coconut halves with this method, but will instead end up with smaller coconut pieces. More often than not, you’ll end up with small pieces of coconut and some pieces of the coconut meat will have broken apart from the coconut shell, making it easier to eat.
If you want to use the shell for other projects, you can also choose to saw the coconut in half. I’ve done it several times, and it’s not the easiest thing to do, but if you have a bit of patience, you’ll end up with two beautiful coconut halves with a nice cut surface.
3. Pry the coconut meat from the shell.
This is probably the hardest part of the process (unless you decided to saw the coconut in half in the last step). I usually use a butter knife and wiggle it in between the coconut meat and the coconut shell. Rather than trying to pry it out in small pieces, I push the knife down as far as I can, and then continue to do the same all the way around the coconut. In many cases with this method I can pry the entire coconut half out of the shell in one piece. Most of the time, though, it comes out in a few big pieces.
4. You can now eat the coconut meat
From this point, you can either eat the coconut as is, or use a vegetable peeler to peel the brown skin off from the white meat. It is now ready for use in your recipes.
I’ll be sharing several new coconut recipes over the next couple of weeks, and will link to them soon!
Enjoy your coconut!
I’m fairly sure that we’ve covered how to *open* a young coconut (also known as a Thai coconut). It seems like each raw food site has a video and/or article about that. I think it’s actually a commandment in the Official Raw Foodism Bylaws somewhere: “Thou shalt show everyone how to open a coconut.”
Here in Portland, we had to search around town quite a bit to find a decent, affordable source. As produce goes, young coconuts are not the most common item and, as such, can really confound people when it comes to (1) finding them, (2) finding *good* ones, and (3) not paying an arm and a leg for them.
As of this writing, prices vary widely in our market. At the gourmet stores (think Whole Foods or New Seasons), they run upwards of $5 each(!), which is probably twice what you can get them for elsewhere. After searching around, we found a source for $2.48 each — affordable, but still more than we once paid in Pittsburgh. (Our co-op there offered them for about $1.50 each a few years back, as long as you bought a case of nine.)
Hopefully, you’ll find a source that offers a decent selection from which to choose, and at affordable prices. Really, the purpose of this article is two-fold: (1) to encourage you to eat more healthy young coconuts, and (2) to help you save money while doing so. If you have to spend $4 for a coconut, then you really should be doing all you can to get the best coconut possible and avoid having to throw it out. After all, if you toss out a $4 coconut because it’s bad, then that means your next coconut is really an $8 coconut — and that’s plain crazy!
Before beginning, let me just say that I realize some young coconuts (e.g., ones I’ve seen in the D.C. area) are available still in their hard, greenish or yellowish shells. ?In my experience, this is unusual in the U.S. ?If you can find them this way, then I’d say you’re likely getting some fresher coconuts than the Thai ones — possibly domestically grown. (In Florida, it was easy to find them still with their shells. Many people there will gladly give you coconuts right from their trees, in fact! And, oooooh, friends, fresh-from-the-tree coconuts are divine!) ?Here’s yours truly doing a little coconut juggling with some full, whole-green-shell, beauties:
Outside of the southern U.S., though, you’ll commonly find young coconuts pre-husked and looking more like this (except that they’ll be wrapped in plastic):
Here’s my process for selecting them:
- I look at each and every coconut that the store has on display! The Asian market I go to has a fairly large case of them, so this takes time, commitment, and the ability to maintain a complete disregard for what others surely think of me as I inspect every inch of every coconut. The display case is low to the ground at our store, so I sometimes wind up crouched down low, not infrequently sitting directly on the floor — which, granted, is weird and likely unacceptable in all venues. But, as I said, you have to have commitment to the cause.
- In the coconut world, white is the best. You really want to look for the whitest, brightest specimens — with as little discoloration as possible. (This isn’t always possible, though, so don’t panic if you can’t find a “perfect” one.)
- Look at the bottoms. Do you see large fissures or holes? ?Avoid these ones! I’ve taken chances on a few, but have been burned a few times, too. It’s best to avoid the ones with fissures, if possible.
- Again with the bottoms: Do you see mold anywhere? Avoid these ones, too! Personally, I won’t eat a coconut if it shows mold on the outside. This is a zero-tolerance area for me.
- The bottoms are often much softer than the rest — and this is generally acceptable. But, if it’s *too* soft, it could mean a bad coconut. Make sure to feel a lot of them and you’ll develop a feel for what’s acceptable and what is not. But, really, color usually trumps everything else. If it’s nice and white everywhere, then it’ll generally be nice and white inside, too.
- Look at the sides. Again, the whiter the better. As they age, I find that they tend to yellow a bit. I commonly find a bit of yellowing at stores — and I’ll often take a chance on a few of them. But, ideally, it’ll have little to no browning anywhere.
- The tops, again, are ideally as white as possible. You’ll find that the tops will be among the first parts of a coconut to go brown with a bit of age. The husk is thinner here, and it really is a good indication of freshness to find one that’s as non-discolored as possible. But, really, I’ll take a chance on one that’s slightly discolored on top if it passes all of my other tests.
- If you see small bits of green here and there, don’t panic — that’s usually just tiny pieces of the original shell that they did not fully cut off.
- Look everywhere for pink. If you see pink, don’t buy that coconut, as it’ll almost certainly be a bad one. Unlike Molly Ringwald, coconuts are not Pretty in Pink.
Once you’ve purchased your coconuts, they’ll generally stay good for a week or two in your refrigerator. Ideally, a coconut will have bright white inner flesh, and relatively clear to slightly milky water. My own rule is to consume them as long as they’re not pinkish (or any darker) inside. Occasionally, you’ll find ones that are mostly water and hardly any flesh. These generally appear somewhat darker inside since they do not have much white flesh there, but may still be okay to consume. If you get one of those, just taste the water to see if it tastes acceptable. But, again, if you see pink flesh, you should just write that one off.
Photo Credit: Young coconut photo by The DLC on Flickr (Creative Commons).
5 easy steps to choose correctly
June 24, 2016
Tips to choosing the best coconut water
Coconut water is one of the planet’s most refreshing and hydrating beverages. It has a delicious flavour and is rich in electrolytes. Fortunately, for Canadian fans, coconut water has flooded the market in recent years, making it more accessible than ever. You can find it in a wide array of packaging: bottles, cartons, cans, powdered and frozen. But with all these choices it can be an overwhelming decision to choose the best brand. Here are 5 pointers that will help you select the best coconut water to quench your thirst and replenish lost nutrients.
- Go natural
If you can find fresh coconut water where you live, count yourself lucky. Fresh is best, not just for taste, but also because raw coconut water contains living enzymes which aid digestion and metabolism. Here in Canada fresh coconut water isn’t available that often but you can look for green coconuts in grocery stores for the real thing. If you end up traveling to the islands, stop at a market or road side stand to enjoy coconut water straight from young coconuts. You can even try the coconut flesh, also known as jelly, by eating it as a snack or throwing it in a smoothie or salad.
- Avoid concentrate
Some brands state that their beverages contain 100% coconut water but their coconut water is actually made from reconstituted concentrate. It’s a lot cheaper for a brand to cook fresh coconut water into a syrup and then add water just prior to packaging but less processing is always the best choice so look for the ‘not from concentrate’ claim on coconut water labels.
- Avoid added flavours or sweeteners
In its natural state, coconut water from a young green coconut is already sweet, so there is absolutely no need to add anything else to it. Sugars and flavourings are usually added to mask the bitterness and acidic taste found in coconut water derived from mature coconuts. Stick to brands that offer pure ingredients and stay away from additives.
- Avoid chemicals
Many brands add chemicals such as metabisulphite. These preservatives make the coconut water last longer on shelf and keep the colour consistent. Make sure that you choose brands that only list coconut water as the sole ingredient. Brands that use organic methods of growing and harvesting their coconuts are the best choice to ensure that you consume the healthiest coconut water.
- Avoid coconut water made from mature coconuts
Mature coconuts are best used for making coconut milk, oil and other coconut products. When used for coconut water, their nutrients are noticeably watered down and they have a more acidic taste, forcing brands to use additives to mask the taste (see tip #3). To ensure that you are getting the most out of your coconut water (especially for athletes), make sure you choose brands that use young green coconuts.
Not long ago coconut water cravings could only be satisfied while visiting a tropical country. Now you can find Grace Coconut water in all major grocery stores in the international aisle. We hope you enjoyed our top 5 tips to help you choose the best coconut water. Don’t forget to always read the ingredients list!
Written by: The Fancy Nancy
All You Need to Know About Green Coconut
Both green coconut water and meat offer impressive nutrition and health benefits.
Packed with nutrition
The water and tender meat of green coconuts are packed with electrolytes and micronutrients.
As a coconut ripens and transforms from mostly water to mostly meat, its nutrition content changes tremendously.
A 3.5-ounce (100-ml or 100-gram) serving of coconut water and raw coconut meat, respectively, provides (3, 4):
|Coconut water||Raw coconut meat|
|Protein||Less than 1 gram||3 grams|
|Fat||0 grams||33 grams|
|Carbs||4 grams||15 grams|
|Fiber||0 grams||9 grams|
|Manganese||7% of the Daily Value (DV)||75% of the DV|
|Copper||2% of the DV||22% of the DV|
|Selenium||1% of the DV||14% of the DV|
|Magnesium||6% of the DV||8% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||2% of the DV||11% of the DV|
|Iron||2% of the DV||13% of the DV|
|Potassium||7% of the DV||10% of the DV|
|Sodium||4% of the DV||1% of the DV|
May prevent dehydration
Coconut water has a similar sugar and electrolyte composition to those of oral rehydration solutions, so it can be used to replace fluid loss from mild diarrhea (5).
Also, many people prefer it to bottled sports drinks as a natural rehydration beverage (5).
A study in eight men who cycled in hot conditions for as long as they could determined that drinking coconut water allowed the participants to exercise longer, achieve a higher heart rate, and experience less dehydration, compared with a sports drink or plain water (6).
Possible heart health benefits
Coconut water may help improve metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure, blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, as well as low HDL (good) cholesterol and excess belly fat.
In a three-week study in rats with metabolic syndrome caused by a high-fructose diet, drinking green coconut water improved blood pressure, blood sugar, triglyceride, and insulin levels (7).
Researchers also noted higher levels of antioxidant activity in the animals’ bodies, which they suggested may protect against oxidative damage to blood vessels (7).
Rich in antioxidants
Both green coconut meat and water are rich in phenolic compounds, which are antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative damage to your cells (8, 9).
In a test-tube study, coconut water from one of the most common varieties of coconut protected cells from oxidative damage caused by hydrogen peroxide (10).
Vitamins and micronutrients in coconuts, such as zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium, also help support your body’s natural antioxidant defense system (10).
Summary The water and tender meat of young coconuts are very nutritious. The water can be used as a natural sports recovery drink. Plus, green coconuts contain nutrients and antioxidant compounds that may protect against cellular damage and heart disease.
difference between a brown coconut and a green coconut?
There is only one coconut, produced by the coconut palm tree, which may come in green or red/orange colours. The difference in green or brown is simply differing stages of maturation.
Green or young coconuts commonly have their tops sliced off, add a straw and presto you have a ready-made refreshing tropical drink! That is coconut water, which is very different from the coconut milk used in cooking. The meat is tender and translucent, which you can scrape out to eat after your drink or add it to fruit salads & canned mixed fruits for a tropical twist.
Brown or mature coconuts are commonly sold with the already brown dried husk removed. The meat has become more firm and opaque white. I understand that some people produce coconut milk by mixing the meat with the coconut water eg. Hawaiians. In South East Asia, the brown shell with just a thin layer of meat left is ground up. The fresh ground coconut is placed in a muslin bag with 1 cup of water added, the bag is then squeezed to produce thick coconut milk (equivalent to canned coconut cream); this is used in SE Asian desserts & added at the end of cooking curries for extra creaminess & coconut flavour.
After the first squeezing, about 4 cups of water are added for the second squeezing to produce a thinner coconut milk that is more liquid. This can be added during the curry cooking process, for desserts, making coconut rice etc. Note that if you let coconut milk boil, it tends to separate and the resultant curry has a higher chance of turning rancid. And yes, you need to refrigerate coconut milk as it spoils fast.
If both fresh mature coconuts and canned coconut milk (the thinned one) are not available, the next best thing is canned coconut cream (diluted with water to required consistency). There is also coconut powder (follow the package’s instructions to reconstitute), but I find when cooking curries, the final gravy is obviously different from one prepared using fresh coconut milk. The very last resort is to add water to dessicated coconut to squeeze for coconut milk, but the result tends to be a bit oily.
Note that coconut is high in saturated fats and hence coconut milk & oil should be consumed infrequently & in moderation. Otherwise, the risk of heart diseases and obesity is very real.
Origins of Coconut
“He who plants a coconut tree, plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a home for himself and a heritage for his children” – South Seas saying
“If you could count the stars, then you could count all the ways the coconut tree serves us” – Philippine proverb
Coconut Basics 101
The word “coconut” first appeared in the western world in the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers found this fruit prolifically growing on tropical islands throughout the Indian Ocean. These explorers named it “coquo” (coco), meaning “small animal”, because the eyes and mouth on the brown outer shell reminded them of the grinning face of a monkey!
The coconut tree is a member of the palm family, and the term “coconut” generally refers to the fruit it produces. Known to be a “colonizer” by nature, the lightweight buoyancy of the coconut makes it capable of floating significant distances on the sea without losing its ability to germinate. Coconut trees have been found growing near coastal waters all over the world.
85% of the world’s coconut production originates in the Philippines and Indonesia, while India and Sri Lanka provide the remaining 15%. Once planted, a coconut tree can grow up to 100 feet tall, and yield thousands of coconuts and many thousands of liters of sap over its 70-100 year lifespan.
More than just a sustainable food crop, every part of the coconut tree is useful to mankind including the roots, trunks, leaves, husks, fiber, fruit, water, sap, oil, milk and meat. Its multipurpose functionality not only supplies food for millions of people, but also encompasses an extraordinary variety of other uses ranging from skincare to household cleansers, toys for children and pets, garments and fashion accessories, furniture, wall and tabletop décor, carpet, doormats, bowls, utensils, lighting fixtures, baskets, utility boxes, tables and chairs, building materials, cosmetics, gardening planters, mattresses, draperies, upholstery, chicken feed, charcoal briquettes, carbon-based water filters, and bio-diesel fuels
The Tree of Life
For thousands of years, Pacific Islanders have used coconut as their primary source of food and medicine, and as a result, have always been among the healthiest, longest-lived people in the world. Because they have maintained their traditional diets, they are known to be generally free of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other degenerative conditions common in our western culture. It is interesting to note, that the coconut tree rates higher than the family cow to 1/3 of the world’s population!
Coconuts’ remarkable levels of resilience means that they can be grown in a wide variety of soils, although they do require a relatively high amount of rainfall. The natural habitat of coconuts is found in coastal areas and on the fringes of deserts. The coconut is a tropical tree species, mainly grown and harvested by small-scale farmers. Production of coconuts is concentrated on island and coastal areas, such as Fiji and Samoa, as well as in the humid tropics, such as India, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.
The coconut is a very useful plant with a wide range of products being sourced from it. Coconut products are used to make everything from clothing to animal feed to beauty creams. Its kernel is harvested for its edible flesh and delicious water, while its husk is used for its strong fibers. Most important, however, are its oils, which are extracted, processed, and marketed for culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic uses alike. Typically, the flesh is first dried down to 6% moisture to make copra. This product is then hauled to factories across the world where it is manufactured into oil. Less widely used, but more valuable, “virgin” coconut oil is directly extracted from raw coconut.
Top 5 Coconut Producers in the World
1. Indonesia – 183,000,000 Tonnes
Indonesia is the world leader of coconut production. The majority of the country’s coconuts are produced in the province of North Sulawesi. Many of the coconuts produced in Indonesia are exported overseas. Indonesia is also one of the world’s top producers of pineapples.
2. Philippines – 153,532,000 Tonnes
The Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of coconuts. It was previously the world’s largest producer before being overtaken by Indonesia. Luzon, Southern Mindanao, and the Eastern Visayas are a few of the country’s most prominent locations for coconut producing. It is estimated that around one quarter of total farm land in the Philippines is dedicated to coconut production.
3. India – 119,300,000 Tonnes
India is the third largest coconut producer in the world. In 2016, the country was responsible for the production of over 119 million tonnes. Coconut production is very important to the agricultural industry in India and the economy as a whole, especially in rural areas of the country.
4. Brazil – 2,890,286 Tonnes
Brazil is the world’s fourth largest producer of coconuts. In 2016, Brazil produced over 2 million tonnes of coconut. Although this number is not as significant as the Asian countries on this list, coconut production in Brazil is growing as demand for coconut products increases. Like the other countries on this list, coconut production is an important part of the country’s economy.
5. Sri Lanka – 2,513,000 Tonnes
The island country of Sri Lanka is the world’s fifth largest producer of coconuts. Sri Lanka trails just behind Brazil with 2,513,000 tonnes produced annually. The country’s warm and sunny climate is ideal for coconut growth.
The Future of Coconuts
Today, the top coconut suppliers are struggling to meet the increasing demands of the global economy. Coconut has been a cash crop for decades and, even with stiff competition from other vegetable oils, it promises to continue to be a profitable venture in the future. Nonetheless, the top global coconut producers must learn from the current situation, and take steps to ensure that their farms are sustainable enough to stand the tests of time and meet future demands.
‘Fair Trade’ practices in the industry try to ensure that the benefits of the booming sector will trickle all of the way down to small farmers, but they unfortunately keep the production rates rising at a slower rate. Lack of investment in sustaining the coconut-growing land’s productivity, largely due to the high costs associated, mean that some farms are producing 75% less fruit than they did 30 years ago. The problem of insufficient supply to meet the increased demand is not helped by the fact that many of the trees producing coconuts today are over 50 years old, 20 years past their prime production years. According to APCC (the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community), many plantations across Asia are experiencing zero growth, and some are even ceasing production as their farmers switch their focus to oil palm production.
Which Country Grows the Most Coconuts?
Indonesia is the world leader of coconut production. The majority of the country’s coconuts are produced in the province of North Sulawesi. The Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of coconuts, followed by India.
The best places to drink out of a coconut
When Barack Obama was asked about his post-presidency-plans he said he would be ‘drinking out of a coconut’ and coconut water has been hailed for its health benefits for years. Thus inspired, we’ve tracked down the best places in the world to drink out of a coconut.
Kahandamodara, Sri Lanka
Young coconuts, on ice and ready to drink
Sri Lanka produces the most varieties of coconut in the world and the country is home to the Natural Coconut Research Institute. So, clearly, they know their stuff. Try one of the bright orange King Coconut, which are sold freshly-carved on street stalls for only 50-60 rupees. Then sip it while gazing at the Indian Ocean from the Turtle Bay Boutique Hotel.
Coconut drinks served at the Bisma Eight
The favoured Indonesian coconut drink is called es kelapa muda and is a combination of chilled coconut water, blended coconut flesh (such a gruesome recipe for such a delicious beverage), and vanilla syrup, served in a coconut shell. Es kelapa muda also comes in cinnamon and clove flavours and can be found everywhere, although the ones at Bisma Eight are especially good.
Kaua’i, Hawaii, USA
A sign advertising fresh coconut drinks in Kaua’i
Kaua’i is often called Hawaii’s Garden Island and, unsurprisingly, it has prime growing conditions for coconuts. Visit one of the local farmers’ markets and have the coconut seller open a fresh one for you, then take a walk along the Coconut Coast (between the cities of Lihue and Kapaa). And if your holiday isn’t quite coconutty enough you can also stay on the Coconut Coast by checking into Aston Islander On The Beach.
Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
The house special at Khmer Surin Boutique Guesthouse
Drinking out of young, green coconuts is popular in Phnom Pehn and it costs as little as 50 cents. Once you’ve sucked the coconut water out through a straw the vendor will cut the top off so you can also eat the coconut flesh. Or, if roadside dining isn’t your thing, you can have one delivered to your room at the Khmer Surin Boutique Guesthouse.
Koh Saumi, Thailand
Na Mueang Waterfall, down the road from the Magic Alambic Rum Distillery
Coconut water is available in most Thai restaurants but we are far more intrigued by the country’s coconut rum (don’t worry, it’s still served out of a coconut shell). Visitors looking for a fresh sample can head to the Magic Alambic Rum Distillery in Koh Samui. Stay just down the road at the Coconuts Palm Resort and you’ll also be within easy reach of the Na Mueang Waterfall.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Coconuts overlooking the Mekong River at Mekong River Hotels
Obama has already expressed his love of drinking out of coconuts and he followed through in 2016 when he was pictured drinking out on one in Laos. Follow in his presidential footsteps by strolling along the Mekong River, coconut in hand, or admire the views from the Mekong River Hotels.
Ari Atoll, Maldives
Trust us, you need this in your life
Coconut is the Maldives’ national tree, although the nut was recently accused of influencing an election when it was suggested that one Maldivian political party was using cursed coconuts to sway voters. Setting aside this chequered history; visitors who stay at the Constance Halaveli can have their coconuts cut straight from the tree as they relax on the beach. And the hotel is working with coconut farmers to improve the local economy.
- Types of Coconut
- Buying and Storing Coconuts
- Preparing Coconut
- Making Coconut Milk
- Coconut Products – Available commercial procucts
- Links – to information on Coconuts.
Types of Coconuts
are bought for the white flesh (called “copra”) they contain. A fresh coconut still has a lot of water in it, palatable, but not as sweet as that of the fresh young coconut. The brown coconut will have less water and that water will be even less sweet, but still drinkable if there is a lot of it. The flesh of the brown coconut is harder and has a more intense flavor than that of the fresh coconut which is too soft and light in flavor for many recipes, and particularly for making coconut milk.
Fresh Young Coconuts
are sold for the water they contain, w hich is sweeter and more flavorful than that of older coconuts. They are trimmed as shown and a lot of the weight is wet fiber. They should be sold tightly wrapped in plastic film to retain moisture. The shell is still too soft to stand the fiber being ripped off, and the flesh is thin and so soft you can eat it with a spoon. The flesh has much less flavor and sweetness than that of a mature coconut. They are often sold by street vendors with a hole punched into them for a straw. This water, usually with flakes of the pulp, is widely available in cans (see products below). A 2-1/2 pound coconut will yield about 1-1/2 cups of water and 4 ounces of flesh (used in some recipes along with the water).
Mutant Gelatinous Coconut
This coconut is available in the Philippines and Indonesia where it is used for various desserts. It may be found preserved in syrup in stores catering to Philippine communities. The flesh of this coconut does not harden but stays gelatinous.
Buying & Storing Coconuts
- IF you really depend on having a coconut for a recipe, buy a spare to make sure you have a good one – its cheap insurance and if you don’t use it you can always eat it.
- Don’t buy brown coconuts that don’t still slosh when you shake them – the more water the better. A dry coconut is a moldy or rotten coconut.
- Fresh Coconuts can be so full of water they barely slosh at all. I have purchased some that were really a bit too young with meat that was still rather soft. They should probably have enough air in them to slosh a bit.
- Don’t buy a coconut (fresh or brown) that’s bleeding at the eyes, it’s rotten inside. The brown coconut in the photo looked just fine in the store but proved to have just a little seep at one eye. It was rotten.
- Don’t buy a coconut with a crack in the shell, it’s probably moldy inside.
Fresh Coconuts will keep as long as 3 weeks but will start to turn brown and may crack. Keep them in a dry place or the fibers on the outside will mold. Brown Coconuts can also be kept a couple weeks if they still have plenty of water but not so long that they dry out.
Preparing coconuts for use is simple but requires a bit of mechanical dexterity and strength. If you don’t feel up to it have someone accustomed to using tools do it (some husbands are good for this, but others will just injure themselves).
A mature coconut should yield about 12 oz of copra (coconut meat) after shelling and peeling off the brown backing. This is equivalent to about 4 oz dried coconut. Dried grated coconut runs about 4 oz to one cup lightly packed so a whole coconut will be about 1 cup of dried grated coconut. So if an Indian recipe calls for “1/2 dried coconut grated”, figure about 2 oz of dried grated coconut or 6 oz of fresh.
A fresh coconut will also yield about 1-1/2 cups of coconut water which is rarely used in recipes, so it’s for the cook. Pour it into a 2 cup glass measuring cup and chill it up in the freezer with a judicious dollop of chilled vodka poured in. It’ll improve your disposition and nobody’ll suspect a thing, “Its just coconut water”.
Here are the steps for preparing a coconut, but for more detail and pictures see my page Coconut Milk page.
- Use a 3/8 inch drill bit and drill through an eye (the weakest point – three eyes are found at the stem end). Pour out the water through the hole. Lacking a drill, use a hammer to pound a large phillips screwdriver through an eye. The water must be clear and colorless – if it has any color at all your coconut is rotten. For a reasonably fresh coconut the water should be pleasant to drink.
- At this point, if it’s convenient, you could put the coconut in a preheated oven at 350°F/177°C for 20 minutes. This will loosen the flesh from the shell making it easier to remove and will likely crack the coconut making it much easier to open.
- Place the coconut on a strong hard surface and wrap a towel around it to make it easy to hold in place. Careful how you hold it because a hammer blow may open a crack that springs shut and could pinch your skin – so use the towel. If you don’t have a coconut grater you’ll probably want to break it into several pieces.
- IF you have a real coconut grater, you can just grate the coconut out of the shell (most recipes call for grated coconut anyway) and you’re ready to cook – but you probably don’t have a real coconut grater, hand cranked or otherwise, so you’ll have to go through a few more steps. I have it from an Indian lady that these hand cranked graters are a real pain to use anyway.
- Now comes the hard part – prying the flesh out of the shell. By far the best and safest tool is a dull 1/2 inch wood chisel (bevel side to the shell) but a short strong knife like an oyster knife will do. In any case the objective is to not stab yourself in the process. Be careful.
- Once you have the flesh out, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the brown skin that came out with the flesh.
- At this point the coconut flesh can be let dry a bit, then wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Longer and it will get moldy. Of course you can freeze it for keeping longer.
- Most recipes call for grated coconut. Because the pieces break up easily a flat grater is more likely to produce bloody knuckles than grated coconut. For small quantities you can use a rotary grater with a flapper to push the coconut pieces against the drum, either an attachment for you mixer (preferred) or a hand rotary grater (like a cheese grater). You may have to clean the drum a couple of times because it clogs and you’ll lose some coconut because when pieces get thin enough they slip around the drum. Best use a “mini-prep” food processor or the sharp blade in your regular food processor long enough to get a really fine cut.
- Depending on the recipe you may want to chop grated coconut to make it finer or grind it with a mortar and pestle (or if you used the sharp blade of your food processor just let it run until it’s as fine as you can get it).
Fresh Young Coconut
These are nuts that are not yet mature. The flesh is jelly-like and lacks flavor, while the water, which fills the whole cavity, is very sweet. The photo to the left shows a whole nut from the tree, a similar nut cut in half, and a trimmed and bleached nut, the form normally found in markets.
Fresh young coconut will keep a week or so, but since the whole objective is the fresh juice inside, you want to minimize storage – the longer the storage the less juice. If kept moist the fiber on the outside will mold, and since the shell is very soft, mold could penetrate to the flesh and juice. If you keep it dry it’ll dry out.
The water is a little less clear than from a mature coconut and it’s quite a bit sweeter. If you split the coconut open you can eat the flesh with a spoon. It is thin, in some areas it may be so thin you can see shell through it. The jelly like flesh is pleasant enough to eat but it can’t be used in any normal coconut recipe because the flavor is just too light.
- Take a 3/8 inch drill bit and drill two holes, anywhere, or punch through with a hammer and phillips screwdriver (the shell is soft). Pour out the water and put it in the fridge to chill.
- The proper way to open a fresh young coconut is to set it on a stump and slash it cleanly through with a single stroke of a machete. My aim with a machete isn’t that practiced, so I drive a sharp Chinese cleaver knife through it with a soft faced mallet.
- Scoop the flesh out with a spoon.
- See “fresh coconut” above for what to do with the water (you do keep a bottle of vodka chilled in the freezer, don’t you) – or you can drink it chilled and straight up (the coconut water, not the vodka). Commercial young coconut water usually has little chips of the flesh in it.
- C1 – The Truth About Saturated Fat – Mary Enig, PhD, Sally Fallon.
- C2 – Coconut Research Center – information including nutrition data for coconut products.
- C3 – Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages – Coconut – detailed botanical and other information on coconuts.