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I love coconut - A Favorite Fruit
Coconut, aka cocos nucifera, is a favorite of mine and is fun to cook with. I can recall far back, loving chocolate coconut treats, coconuts themselves and the juice inside, and many other things that used coconut as an ingredient. It is a fruit of the coconut palm tree, with a hard and sometimes "hairy" shell, and a hard creamy white flesh inside along with coconut milk. From coconut oil, to flaked coconut, to coconut milk, toasted, you can enjoy coconut in many recipes.
Having originated in Asia, it makes sense they would quickly spread wherever a current could take a coconut because they float. Thus, we see them on islands and coastlines around the world. They were introduced to a few places as well, and the rest is history. The trees are just beautiful and the fruit itself a treat.
When we go to the store, if we can buy coconut there, its often the mature fruit which is available, taking out some tough work that can be had with coconuts. I know, because one day my sister and some friends and myself tried for a long time to figure out how to get one open. We had many great ideas, but in the end we needed assistance, as we were just kids. The shell does have 3 "eyes" at one end, and of those, one is softer
Coconuts, as they are growing go through stages like anything else. When young, the kernel of the coconut is softer, and there is a lot of liquid but it is not sweet. The liquid sweetens as the coconut reaches the "green coconut" status. This liquid is called coconut juice or coconut water. For recipes calling for coconut milk, that "milk" is actually extracted from the meat of the coconut.
I know that some people, (like the people in my house!) do not like coconut so much because of the texture of it. The texture, just wrecks it for some people, which is so unfortunate. They think they don't like coconut then, and may never try a coconut cream pie, or something else just as good. As for the best time to buy coconut, a mature coconut is pretty much available all through the year. However, the peak season for coconuts is September through April. Look for a heavy coconut and one that you can literally hear the juice sloshing around inside. Older nuts look more grey than brown, and watch out for what looks like wet spots, or moldy spots. Smell the coconut, if it smells fermented at all, discard it. You can keep your coconut in the fridge for one month, or store small parts of it in air tight containers. In containers, it keeps about 2 weeks, or freeze it for longer.
Here is a list of some of my top favorite recipes that call for coconut, or coconut milk as an ingredient. I like coconut shrimp, coconut cream pie, pina coladas, chocolate macaroons, Italian coconut cake, coconut smoothies, pineapple coconut cake, German chocolate cake, brownies with coconut and frosting, just to name a few.
By doing a search for recipes for coconut with chicken and fish, you will be amazed as how many main course recipes there are that utilize some type of coconut. It opens up all new possibilities.