According to an old Indonesian saying; ‘he who plants a coconut tree plants vessels and clothing, food and drink, a habitation for himself and a heritage for his children’; and aptly so, as the tree of the coconut is highly versatile and useful. But then, considering the versatility in its name; is the coconut a fruit, a nut or both? Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe which is also known as a dry drupe. A drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing a seed (like a peach or olive). The coconut in the store looks very different from the ones growing on a coconut palm. In their natural state, a coconut can be divided into three different layers: the outer most, a green smooth layer called the exocarp, encapsulates the fibrous husk known as the mesocarp which surrounds the hard woody layer called the endocarp, within which is the seed.
A popular tropical fruit, the coconut is known for its great versatility. It has domestic, commercial, and industrial uses of its different parts. Coconuts are an integral part of the daily diet for many people. The oil and milk derived from the fruit are commonly used in cooking and frying. Coconut oil is also widely used in soaps and cosmetics. The coconut water within the fruit a refreshing drink and can be processed to create alcohol. This water is nutritious and rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The meat of the coconut is used fresh or dried in sweet and savoury dishes, or shredded for use in candy, cakes and pastries.
Packed with wholesome nourishment and healthy benefits, nutritionally, the coconut is classified as a ‘functional food’. Coconut oil softens, soothes and heals dry skin. It’s commonly used in beauty preparations such as moisturisers, hair products and soap; pure coconut oil has traditionally been used in India and Southeast Asia for cosmetic purposes.
Interesting Coconut Facts
Coconuts are called the “Tree of Life” as every bit of it is used. It can produce drink, fibre, food, fuel, utensils, musical instruments, and much more.
When intra-venous (IV) solution was in short supply, doctors during World War II and Vietnam used coconut water as a substitute for 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.
Soleyman, an Arab merchant, visited China in the 9th century and describes the use of coir fibre and toddy made from coconuts.
In 16th century, Sir Francis Drake called coconut ‘nargils’, which was the common term used until the 1700’s when the word coconut was established.
It takes 11 -12 months for the coconut to mature.
At one time scientists identified over 60 species of Cocos palm. Today, the coconut is a monotypic with one species, nucifera. However, there are over 80 varieties of coconut palms, which are defined by characteristics such as dwarf and tall.
Coconut growing regions are as far north as Hawaii and as far south as Madagascar.
Various ways to Cook with Coconut Water
Rice: Use coconut water either mixed with water or all by itself to cook rice. To cook rice with water and coconut water use 2 glasses of coconut water (roughly twice as much coconut water as water), one glass of water for one glass of rice. When rice is cooked with only coconut water, it is sweet and has a nutty taste. This type of coconut water rice goes very well with Thai dishes and also our very own South Indian curries.
Smoothie: Adding coconut water while making smoothies adds to the flavour besides providing the additional nutritional benefits. Coconut water and the soft meat enhance the taste of strawberry, pineapple and banana smoothies especially.
Soups: Coconut milk which is a much richer, creamier and higher in fat and calorie is often used for soups. Substituting it with coconut water from tender coconuts is a much healthier option. However, some recipes might have to be modified a bit for the change.
Marinades: Many non vegetation dishes of chicken and meat require marinating with either grated coconut or coconut milk. Coconut milk is added mostly for thick and rich gravy also. Try using tender coconut water instead. For thick gravy, adding more of the spices with the coconut water will give good rich gravy.
Dessert and sweets: Coconut water can be alternated with regular milk or plain water in dessert recipes. Cakes turn out really well when milk is substituted with Coconut water.
Image Credit: epicurious
Tender Coconut Water and Coriander Soup
Coconut Water: 1 cup
Coriander leaves: 1/2 cup
Garlic: 2 cloves
Chillies: 2 Green
Corn Flour: 2 tbsp
Salt & Pepper to taste
Grind Coriander leaves, Garlic & Green chillies to a fine paste. Heat Coconut water in a pan. Add Coriander paste to the Coconut water & bring to a boil. In a bowl, mix Corn flour with little cold water. Add it to the boiling concoction and stir well. When the soup thickens remove from fire and pour into a serving bowl. Garnish with little chopped coriander leaves, salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Image Credit: Kerala Tourism
Tender Coconut Pudding Recipe
Tender coconut pulp: 2 cups
Condensed Milk: 1 tin
Fresh milk: 1 cup
Gelatine: 2 tsp
Dates (chopped) for garnishing
Cashew nuts (chopped) for garnishing
Dissolve gelatine in 1/2 cup of hot water. Blend all the ingredients. Pour in small bowls and refrigerate. Garnish with chopped dates and cashew nuts.
2 big tender coconuts with water
250 ml milk
1 1/2 tbsp corn flour
3 tbsp sugar
Remove the cream from the coconuts and blend with the water in a mixer till it becomes thick and saucy. Keep aside. Combine 2 tbsp milk with corn flour and make a paste. Keep aside. Boil the remaining milk in a deep pan and when it starts boiling, add the corn flour paste, stirring continuously to prevent lump formation. Lower the flame and add the sugar, mix well and remove from the flame. Cool completely and add the prepared coconut sauce and blend to a uniform consistency. Add more sugar if the tender coconut water is not sweet. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
Corn flour can be alternated with custard powder for better taste.
Image Credit: bawarchi
Tender Coconut and Paneer Curry
For The Madras Curry Powder
20 dried red chillies
2 tbsp coriander (dhania) seeds
1/4 cup chana dal (split bengal gram)
1 tbsp black peppercorns (kalimirch) corns
2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
1 piece turmeric root
For The Curry
2 tender coconut with firm pulp
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 cup onion- minced
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups paneer (cottage cheese), cut into small pieces
2 tbsp oil
2 to 3 tsp madras curry powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
Curry leaves few
Salt to taste
For the Madras Curry Powder: Dry Roast all the ingredients without oil. Cool and grind into a coarse powder with few dried curry leaves. Store in an air tight container. Use as required.
For the Curry: Reserve the water from tender coconut. Ease out the pulp and chop the same. Heat oil in a wok, add mustard seeds. When the seed crackle add curry leaves and onion and fry till onion becomes light brown. Add tomato and fry till it is reduced to a pulp. Add 1 ½ cup of tender coconut water and curry powder. When the gravy begins to boil add chopped coconut pulp, salt and paneer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add coconut milk. Bring to a boil and remove from fire. Serve hot with Paratha or Puri.
Image Credit: blend with spices
Bread: 6 slices
Marie biscuits: 1 cup crushed
Tender coconut: 1 cup sliced
Water: 1 cup
Coconut milk powder: 1/4 cup
Sugar syrup: 1/2 cup
Cardamom (elaichi) powder: 1 tsp
Almond (badam) slivers: 1 tsp
Rose water: 1 tsp
Make sugar syrup with one cup water and 3 tablespoon sugar. Once the syrup starts thickening remove from fire. Mix coconut milk powder to 1 cup hot water. Take a shallow dish. Dip sliced bread into the crushed biscuits and arrange as single layer in the dish. On top of this arrange the tender coconut slices. Mix the sugar syrup with coconut milk and pour over the rasmalai. Cover and keep aside for 10 min. Garnish the rasmalai with cardamom powder, rose water, almond slivers. Can be served warm or cold.