Coconut water is a popular thirst quencher on the health rise and rightfully so, given all the vitamins and antioxidants this fruit packs. But not all coconuts are the same! In fact, coconuts’ nutritional profile ranges based on their age.
Coconuts are all at different stages of life. Each moon cycle, the tree produces a new flower pod, which then continues to develop into a rack of coconuts. Each month, the pod develops and moves to a more mature stage of life. Therefore, the tree is fruiting year-round. When you look up at a coconut tree, you will notice pods towards the top of the palm, small coconuts, medium, then large/brown hanging at the bottom of the bunch.
If you have a small, about palm-sized nut in your hand, they will contain coconut water and they will also have the least amount of natural sugar. As the shell size grows bigger, it develops more water with more sugar. At a certain stage, the coconut reaches maturity. The water turns into what I like to call coconut “jelly”. A stage after that, coconut “meat”.
If you are located in a sub-tropical region, your residence may be littered with coconuts. In South Florida, loads of coconuts are trimmed from the trees by landscapers daily and left on the road for landfill to scoop up. Perhaps, there isn’t enough awareness on how easy it is to harvest coconuts. Or maybe there is a stigma around the act of harvesting the nut that intimidates people. Let’s move past those fears and dive right into harvesting coconuts!
The first step, of course, is having a batch of coconuts at hand. Your method may include rescuing them curbside before the landfill gets to them (my system), or you may use a pole pruner, or climbing tool — or maybe you have a dwarf tree you can walk right up to and twist off a few nuts (lucky you).
Step two. After you have your coconuts, you can begin harvesting. The only tool you will need is the “coconut opener” tool, or “Brazilian coconut key”. If you’re going super DIY, a simple screw driver will do the trick. The instructions using a screw driver are as follows:
• Pop off the “cap” of the coconut by sliding your tool under and pushing it upwards.
• Puncture the tool through the top of the coconut, tapping with your hand as needed until the screw driver is fully submerged.
• Make one or two more holes on the top, fully submerging to make sure the tool pierces through the nut and water will be able to flow out.
The third step, involves having a pitcher ready. When your coconut has been pierced, flip it over so the fruit can drain in the pitcher. Pro tip: Add a strainer to opt out of small chunks in your water.
Culinary Uses for Coconut
For older coconuts, you can chop them open with a machete or axe. As previously stated, more mature coconuts will provide you with that yummy white meat you usually see over priced at the super market. The meat can be used in cooking, soups, eaten raw, or even dried and processed to make coconut flour. I personally love blending the meat, especially when I have a large amount, to separate in containers and freeze in portions for a later date.
After you have done all the processing of the water or meat, we are left with just the shell. Just when you thought you couldn’t do anything else you can use the coconut shell as compost or mulch for your yard. Absolutely, no part of the coconut is useless!
Taylor Gogginis tropical gardener in Florida who gained her skills in cooperative agriculture while work-trading with a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program on the Hawaiian Islands. She now grows papaya, banana, avocado, fig, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs to make into inventive plant-based recipes. Connect with Taylor on Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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