Hawaii’s Amazing Coconut

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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.