Coconuts are those large seeds that grow from coconut palms and grow in tropical climates. They have these brown fibrous husks concealing the meat part inside.
Arecaceae is the scientific name of the coconut tree of the palm tree family. The coconut refers to the whole coconut palm, the seed, and the fruit. The coconut is not only a nut but also a drupe, which is a fleshy fruit with thin skin.
It has a stone in the middle which contains the seed. It is a versatile tree because it provides food, fuel, beauty ingredient, medicine, and even building materials. You’ve probably used it in one of the ways here.
It also has this clear liquid inside that before it matures, which people also drink and is quite a refreshing drink. The mature ripe coconuts are mostly edible seed and are processed for oil and plant milk.
Yes, plant milk! You have probably used it in your rice, commonly known as coconut milk. The coconut oil comes from the hard shell dried and is used in cooking and cosmetology.
How To Pick A Coconut
You are probably thinking of how this will about how you will climb a palm tree to get that coconut. No, picking here is in regards to how to choose a good coconut. Leave the climbing to the experts, lol!
At the store, you will find two types of coconuts, a mature brown one, and young white coconut. It all goes down to what you want the coconut for. Young coconuts like we saw have a lot of clear liquid and coconut flesh, which hasn’t hardened yet.
The meat is gelatinous and is easier to get to. Mature ones have little coconut water ut more meat. It is obviously hard to get to, but it is useful for coconut milk cream, flour, and even vinegar!
For a mature brown coconut, check for any signs of cracking or molding, especially around the coconut’s eyes. If you get one molding, the chances are that the one you chose may be on the road.
Then give it a shake and feel well more to hear how much water it has because the more the liquid, the younger it is. As the coconut matures, it absorbs the liquid, but you are probably going for the meat mostly, which you will get in the mature coconut. Lack of the sloshing of the fluid can also mean it is a bad coconut.
For the young coconut, look at the outer husk, which comes still attached. It will tell you how long the coconut has been there. If it is browning, that is a sign it’s been there for a while but not necessarily bad.
To be on the safe side, get one that is mostly white because it would be a lie to say that you will always find them white. Give it a shake too, and should be full of water and heavy for its size. Also, check for any molding unless you want to waste your coins.
How To Tell If A Coconut Is Ripe
Coconuts take one year to ripen and do that in bunches. Into the six and seven months, the coconut inside has water mostly, which you can get and still enjoy. After some more months, the liquid is absorbed and converted to the coconut’s white part inside the shell. So how do you know:
- Color – Unripe coconuts are bright green in color but when ripe it turns to brown, and in its ripening prime, it turns to solid brown.
- Shake it – If you are lucky enough to live in the tropics, you can get them from the ground when they fall. You can also shake to judge its ripeness. When they are ripe, they make no sound when shaken because they have little to no water. However, if it still has the sloshing sound of liquid, it needs more time to ripe.
- Harvesting – Despite having pole pruners to help reach tall trees, palm trees are still pretty tall trees, and getting up a 60-foot tree is hard work. The good thing is that coconuts naturally fall when fully ripe. It is how they reproduce. That does not necessarily mean that all coconuts that fall are mature. Interestingly, even immature ones can still be consumed. The liquid and the meat too. It all comes down to the two other ways of knowing if they are ripe. Shaking them and the color.
How To Tell If A Coconut Is Bad
Again, check for any molding especially, on the eyes of the coconut while purchasing them. They ought to look clean and brown, not light-colored and dusty. Coconuts can be tricky because the hard shell can’t tell you much about the inside part but always lookout for any molding.
How To Crack Open A Coconut
You’ve probably looked at a coconut and wondered how you are going to get the meat out. It’s easier than it seems.
Cracking a coconut with a husk
- First, drain the coconut of its juice by poking a hole through one of the coconut eyes and storing it if you are planning to prepare your coconut milk. You make coconut milk when you blend the meat with the juice and add water.
- Test each eye with a knife to find the soft one then create a half-inch hole. Invert the coconut to drain the liquid in a container.
- Get a hammer and hold the coconut with your least dominant hand. Look for the perfect circle line running around the coconut and whack it until it splits open. You will probably have to turn the coconut several times, just to weaken the “equator.”
- Use your fingers to pull them apart, and there you have it!
Opening a green coconut and drinking it
- Stab the side of the coconut with a sturdy knife or machete if you own one. Make sure you don’t get the water on your clothes because the coconut juice stains clothes. A little juice will squirt out since the fruit is undergoing pressure.
- Make more stabs to make a triangular hole rocking the knife to connect the cuts.
- You should know that the shell is inside the green covering, so it might stop your blade. If the knife is sturdy, it will pass, but if it doesn’t, you will have to husk the coconut and poke through one of the holes at the stem end.
- Connect the cuts and pry the plug out.
- Drink it using a straw or serve in a glass. It is quite a refreshing drink, especially in the summer.
Getting The Meat Out Of The Coconut
Above we looked at one way of breaking the coconut, but there is another way of breaking it and getting the coconut meat intact if you are not in any hurry.
- Put the coconut in a paper bag then put it in the freezer for 12 hours.
- Remove it and get a hammer to hit the hard brown part, which will be weaker now. You will get the meat perfectly intact if you “peel” the now fragile husk. In this instance you could use a spoon to remove it.
You may also:
- Poke one of the eyes of the coconut and drain all its water.
- Then look for that equator-like line going around the coconut and hit it with a hammer till it weakness and pull them apart.
- Hold one of the halves with your non-dominant hand so that the other one can remove the meat. Choose a knife with a curved edge to make it easier.
- Cut into the coconut until you reach the shell. Angle your next one from the original one forming a triangular shape. Situate your knife under the flesh in the middle of the triangle and gently lift the meat, twisting the knife if need be.
- Continue making the same shapes depending on your knife and if it is strong to pry the meat up.
Storing Fresh Coconut
After getting home, make sure to remove as much of the meat as you can. You could use a spoon or a coconut tool that makes the job easy. Getting it off the husk makes it easier to store and safer since it won’t go bad as quickly.
If you want to refrigerate it, you will need to prep it. You just don’t throw it in there. You will have to shred it or leave it in chunks. If you want to freeze it for longer, make sure you drain as much moisture from it. For both ways, make sure you store it in airtight containers or vacuum seal.
Making Coconut oil
To make our virgin coconut oil, you will need 9 to 10 coconuts which will give you 150 grams of coconut oil. Afterwards:
- Extract the meat part of the coconut as we discussed above then grate it
- Get the coconut milk from the flesh by squeezing it in a muslin cloth and collect the liquid in a bowl.
- Sieve it through a muslin cloth to remove any impurities
- Put it in a pan and turn on the stove to cook for 2 to 3 hours over low heat.
- Keep stirring it until it turns brownish, taking care that it doesn’t burn.
- Once it is concentrated, remove it and let it cool. It now looks like thickened milk. Squeeze out the oil and collect it in the bowl and store it in a container of your choice.
NB: The coconut oil lasts for a year or about ten months if stored well. Do not leave it out in the open to avoid getting it contaminated.
Difference Between Cold-pressed Oil And Fractionated Coconut Oil
Cold-pressed oil is raw coconut oil that has not undergone heat. From the word itself, it means that the fleshy part of the coconut is extracted and ground up in flakes then the oil is extracted through a press.
It is definitely on the pricier side, but it remains unrefined, and the raw smell remains intact. Fractionated coconut oil, on the other hand, is coconut oil produced via the process of fractionation.
This is a process of separating different types of fats found in oils by heating the oil where the solid fraction of the oil is separated from the liquid. This takes a few hours to accomplish.
How To Store Coconut Oil
As discussed above, when extracted raw, coconut oil lasts about 8-12 months and needs to be stored well because yes, it can go bad. Store it in a glass bottle so that any chemicals from the plastic containers do not leach into the oil.
You could choose to refrigerate or put it with other ingredients in the pantry. It is all up to you. If you refrigerate it, it won’t be easy to use it, but the good thing is it has a low melting point.
Shredding Coconut And How To Dry It
Shredding happens after you break the coconut into half, and rather than removing the meat, you scrape it out in long thin shreds with a small tool with a row of sharp teeth that you can find in Asian stores.
You can also just get the husk’s flesh then grate it with your ordinary kitchen grater or your food processor. People shred it so that they can add it in their pastries or salads because it is easy to consume it that way in food.
You can dry it by spreading the shredded coconut on a baking sheet and baking at 250 degrees F for 10-15 minutes in the oven to dry it. If you want to use it, you will just soak it in water and restore it.
Desiccated coconut is finely shredded coconut, which is dried. The difference is that shredded coconut despite being dried still has some moisture in it.
Interesting Facts About Coconuts
The coconut is a versatile fruit because it has a lot of benefits that we have discussed above. From coconut milk to coconut flour. It can be used for a whole lot of things. Some interesting facts about it are:
- They are high in dietary fiber reaching up to 61 %, which is quite impressive. It aids in stress-relieving and helps to reduce the risk of diabetes.
- It has anti-thrombotic and anti-carcinogenic properties that affect the body positively.
- Coconut oil helps boost immunity because it is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic. It is even best for urinary tract infection.
Coconuts have a lot of health benefits because of how they can be manipulated. Other interesting facts on the coconut is that:
- The husk of a coconut is burnt and acts as a mosquito repellant.
- The husks can also be powdered and used to make granular activated carbon and are recognized as one of the best fuels for cooking in the world.
- The coconut water was used to treat dehydration in World War 2 due to a lack of medical supplies.
- Indonesia and the Philippines are the largest producers of coconut in the world.
- A coconut can have up to 180 coconuts harvested from the same tree in a single time.
- The coconut water turns pink when it contains high levels of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which is a naturally occurring oxidant. It is the same enzyme that makes the water nutritious. If the water is exposed to sunlight and oxygen, it then turns to pink.