Ah, the swaying coconut palms! They’re a trademark of these Hawaiian islands, lining our white sand beaches, shading our golf courses, and helping to beautify resorts and condominiums.

When you visit Hawaii, you may send a coconut home as a gift, or take one home as a souvenir. Hand-painted, personalized coconuts are popular and abundant.

Aside from being delicious and readily available, coconuts support good health. They also can be used as a valuable food source, and even for building materials.

In fact, coconut trees are more versatile than almost anything else that grows.

Coconut water is full of electrolytes that hydrate and replenish the body. Coconut water also is the closest natural substance to plasma; our white blood cells. It’s so pure it’s been used to give blood transfusions to wounded soldiers when fresh blood wasn’t available. Coconuts are anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-protozoal. They support tissue healing and repair. They boost immune system function. And they promote weight loss by increasing our metabolism, so we don’t have to worry about the fat.

A young coconut is one that hasn’t yet reached maturity. It has different properties from those of a mature coconut. A young coconut contains 1–2 cups of slightly sweet water and “spoon meat,” which is more jelly-like than a mature coconut’s, and can be scooped out with a spoon. Young coconuts are smaller, smoother, and lighter in color. The husk is fibrous and juicy. Once the husk is shaved away the hard shell of the nut can be seen; the lighter the nut, the younger the coconut. Using a machete, you can cut a small hole in the nut and drink the water. After the water has been drained, chop the nut in half and scoop out the meat. (You may have seen film of this being done, but you probably haven’t tried it. You probably don’t even have a machete handy.)

Almost all parts of the palm can be used to enhance life. Fronds can be used for baskets, thatched roofs and hats. The trunk can be used for building and to make canoes. The coconut husk will make rope, rugs, and it’s excellent material for shoes. Coconut shells are perfect for bowls, cups, and can even be carved into eating utensils. Coconut meat can be used to produce coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut flour, shredded coconut and even can be made into coconut ice-cream. It can be rendered to make a very fine oil that can provide lighting at night or cooking oil or as a skin lotion. The smoke of the burning husk is a natural mosquito repellent. The dried fibers of the nut can be shredded as stuffing for pillows and mattresses. The ‘wrapper’ of the palm can be used as toilet paper. The meat of either the green or ripe or sprouted coconut can be eaten raw as a high energy snack food.

So, as you contemplate the humble coconut in your travels through the islands, think beyond that brown, hairy, homely thing and appreciate its enormous contributions to mankind. Even if you don’t do anything with it yourself.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Nice post.

    I remember the first time I saw a coconut on a tree. I didn’t recognize it. It was in Hawaii–along Waikiki –during the late 1960s. Before that, I had only seen a rare coconut at the grocery store in New Mexico. Because my sister and I were curious about the strange, brown, fuzzy thing we saw at the store, my Mom bought one and brought it home. Then, my Dad had to help open the thing. It was only after we moved to Guam (and passed through Hawaii on the way there), that we really learned a lot about coconuts.

    Since my wife is from the Philippines (and I’m basically an island boy)–we have lots of recipes for coconut. The Guam and Philippine kelaguin is delicious when coconut is used.

    Thanks for the cool post!

  2. I had 6 coconut trees in my yard growing up in Laie. Now I live in Mililani and coconut trees are not a common thing. Kinda like the beach, you have to search it out to get to it.

    Well the cold coconut juice at the swap meet is a great refreshment, expensive though.

  3. WHEN WE VISITED HAWAII I WAS TOLD THAT I COULD NOT BRING ONE BACK TO THE MAINLAND_AGRICULTURE LAWS.NEEDLESS TO SAY MY 7 YEAR OLD WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED. IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE ONE SENT TO US? THANKS FOR YOUR INPUT. I mean a whole coconut right off the tree.

  4. Yes Coconut oil is also very good for your skin & hair used sparingly. As a body scrub, you can mix 1 tsp of coconut oil with brown sugar for a great skin exfoliant. Also, for the hair, my mother said in the early days before RID, to get rid of head lice, they would have to put gasoline on their hair.  To then get rid of the smell, they would rub coconut oil in it.  She said, that’s why plenty island girls had sweet smelling hair; Whether that was true or not, I'm not sure BUT you can use it for dry, damaged hair. By coconut oil that is virgin, warm it and add essential oils: Add essential oils to enhance the coconut oil treatment. A couple of drops of rosemary, neem, tea or cedarwood essential oil added to the treatment will help fight dandruff and encourage hair growth. A few drops of lavender and geranium essential oils added to the coconut oil will nourish dry hair and also have an added bonus of being a soothing and stress relieving treatment. Work into the hair and leave in for a few hours or overnight.

  5. Another great post by Jim! I never realized how very versatile coconuts really are!  I do like to cook with virgin cocnut oil. Thanks for the tips Heather, and yes they did use coconut oil in the hair for uku (head lice) prevention. It was mainly used to keep the lice from attaching to the hair shaft, a lot of young kids, especially with long hair will have coconut oil in their hair when there is an outbreak at school. Not sure how well it works though. :)

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