The various parts of the coconut have a number of culinary uses. The nut provides oil for cooking. The white, fleshy part of the seed (meat), is used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts. Desiccated coconut or coconut milk is added to curries and other savory dishes. Coconut flour has also been developed for use in baking. Dried coconut chips are a common snack item. The term coconut butter is used to describe solidified coconut oil, but has also been adopted as a name by certain specialty products made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil. Coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut oil all come from mature coconuts.
Spicy coconut chutneys are a favorite meal accompaniment to a South Indian dinner. Coconut milk lends its richness to many curries served throughout Southeast Asia.
Coconut in its mature stage has a rich, nutty flavor and chewy texture.
Purchase only extra virgin coconut oil available in health food markets. Though it may be more expensive than the refined oil it contains no trans-fatty acids. The oil is very stable and is able to withstand the heat of stir frying, light frying, and baking and has a high smoke point. Another advantage of coconut oil is its amazing shelf life. Stored for a year, unrefrigerated, the oil showed no signs of rancidity. Store at room temperature. When refrigerated, the oil becomes completely solid.
Coconut water contains sugar, dietary fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and provides electrolyte balance. It is consumed as a refreshing drink throughout the tropics, and is gaining popularity as a sport drink. Coconut water can also be fermented to produce vinegar.
Coconut milk is obtained by pressing the grated coconut and extracting the juice or by passing hot water or milk through it. It has a fat content around 17%. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate from the milk.
Toddy and nectar
The sap derived from the flower clusters can also be consumed as a liquid drink or fermented to become palm wine. The sap can also be reduced by boiling to create a sweet syrup or candy or reduced further to yield palm sugar or jaggery.
Heart of palm
The buds of adult plants are edible, and are known as heart of palm. They are considered a rare delicacy, as harvesting the buds kills the palms. Hearts of palm are eaten in salads, sometimes called “millionaire’s salad”. Hearts of palm are also marinated in lemony brine, canned, and sold at supermarkets, Asian markets, and gourmet groceries in many countries.