Coconut products are a major trade commodity throughout the world. Products include food, milk, oil, fibres, composts, timber, and Hawaiian grass skirts! Arrack is an alcoholic spirit made from the sap of the coconut palm.
Coconut palms are found throughout the tropics, and can also be successfully grown in areas that receive only mild frosts. 90 per cent of the world's coconut production for export sources from the Asia-Pacific region, though coconut products are an increasing source of revenue for many other developing areas. 'Coir' is the fibrous husk of the coconut shell that has usually been removed by the time they reach the supermarket. It is tough and naturally resistant to seawater. It protects the fruit enough to survive months floating on ocean currents to be washed up on a sandy shore where it may sprout and grow into a tree.
Uses: (please scroll down for more...)
Coconut water is drunk directly out of the unripe fruit as a common refresher.
Grated and dried nut flesh is used to thicken sauces and coconut oil is a popular frying medium.
The sap can be fermented to yield toddy ('tuak' in Indonesian), an alcoholic beverage. From toddy, the highly intoxicating drink 'arrak' is prepared by distillation, and further fermentation of toddy gives the mild palm vinegar.
The coconut product most important for cooking is coconut milk, called santen in Indonesia and gata on the Philippines. This is produced by processing grated coconut with hot water and extracting oil and aromatic compounds. It is an extremely important ingredient for many cuisines of Asia. In Western kitchens, the traditional method is to blend desiccated coconut with hot water in a food processor; or to use industrially produced coconut extracts (‘creamed coconut’), sold in blocks to be dissolved in hot water.
Gravies containing desiccated coconut are popular in Southern India (sometimes in combination with yoghurt). Coconut oil is the most typical frying medium in Southern India. Many Sri Lankan curries contain coconut milk, which helps to thicken the sauce as well as add a delicious flavour and texture. Sri Lankan bowl-shaped breads, called hoppers, are composed of rice flour, coconut milk, and yeast. From these ingredients, thin pouring dough is made, which is then fried to a crisp texture in deep-bottomed pans.
Not just a nutritious food!
Whilst coconut provides us with plenty of foods, it is a versatile plant with many other uses. Leaves, wood and oil can be used in housing, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing, charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers, implements and oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap, beauty products and more.