Coconut: Know Your Fruits and Veggies™

Opening the Coconut

In the tropical countries where coconuts are eaten almost every day they are cracked open with one strong blow from a thick, heavy-bladed knife. Since the average home cook doesn’t have a lot of experience handling a machete or cleaver other methods are suggested.

First, use a tool with a sharp point such as an ice pick, a hammer and nail, or even a corkscrew to poke through the two softest of the three “eyes” at one end the coconut. Drain the juice into a glass or cup.

Next heat the oven to 350 F and bake the coconut on a pan for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the coconut and put it into a large paper or plastic bag. Hold the open end closed while giving the coconut inside a strong blow with a hammer. The bag prevents the shell from breaking off and flying all over the kitchen.

NOTE: Do not attempt to heat the coconut before removing the juice. An exploding coconut can cause damage to your oven.

Once the shell is in several pieces, use a small firm paring knife to remove the meat from the shell. If you prefer not to eat the brown skin, use a vegetable peeler to remove it.  Be aware, however, that you’ll be tossing away a good source of fiber.

Here are some pictures that might help.

Weird Coconut Facts

  • Every bit of the coconut is used. As a result, coconuts are called the “Tree of Life” and can produce drink, fiber, food, fuel, utensils, musical instruments, and much more.
  • When intro-venous (IV) solution was in short supply, doctors during World War II and Vietnam used coconut water in substitution of IV solutions.
  • Botanically, the coconut palm is not a tree since there is no bark, no branches, or secondary growth. A coconut palm is a woody perennial monocotyledon with the trunk being the stem.
  • Coconuts grow from the center of the fronds, close to the trunk. Unique to the coconut palm, each tree blooms thirteen times a year and coconut’s in all stages of growth are on the tree at the same time.
  • It takes 11 -12 months for the coconut to mature.

Growing a coconut

You can even grow a coconut – but unlike other plants you can’t eat it and grow it too. To begin the growing process, purchase a coconut with its husk completely intact. Just like sprouting any seeds and legumes, the coconut must be soaked in water, only longer, two or three days.

Next, prepare a pot that is large enough and deep enough for the coconut by putting big pieces of gravel or stones in the bottom to allow for good drainage. Add about two inches of sandy soil, then set the coconut on the soil with the pointed or bud end up. Add more soil until it covers about half the husk. Then set the pot in a warm place such as a sunny window, near a warm oven, or on a radiator.

The next step requires patience and diligence. Pour warm water over the husk every day, making sure it does not dry out. The sprouting process is very slow, sometimes taking six months or longer. Until the sprout appears, the plant is receiving its nourishment from the white meat inside. The water within provides the nut with all of its moisture requirements.

For a sprout to appear it must first pierce through one of the soft spots, often called eyes, of the hard inner shell and finally emerge from the large fibrous outer shell. When white roots begin to grow out, in about a year, the coconut can be planted in a large tub.

Coconuts planted at home are unlikely to produce fruit but make interesting plants.

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