Discover The Amazing Coconut
Go Nuts Over The Coconut!
Discover everything about this amazing nut - from how to choose a good one, crack and shred it, to the amazing benefits of coconut oil, milk and water to the frightening coconut crab. Try some awesome recipes and truly discover why its easy to go nuts over the coconut!
The scientific name for the coconut palm is Kalpa vriksha which means tree that is necessary for living. Indeed, all parts of the coconut palm can be used in some capacity and have amazing properties. The coconut itself has many food uses including oil, water, meat, sugar and milk. The coconut itself can serve as a cup and the husk of the coconut can be burned as fuel. Seed fiber called coir is taken from the husk and used to make brushes, mats, fishnets, rope and carpet. A very potent fermented drink is also made from the coconut palm's sap.
Please read on and I hope you enjoy discovering the amazing coconut!
photo source: . www.cookies-in-motion.com/Nuts.html
How to Choose, Crack and Shred a Coconut
Although coconuts seem hardy and durable, they are actually quite delicate and do not have a long shelf life, especially after the outer husk had been removed. Without the outer husks, the coconut shells bang against each other in transport and sometimes crack and leak. The eyes are exposed and could become punctured. This could cause air seepage or mold growth. Air and mold inside the coconut will make the meat inside spoil rapidly.
Because of this, it is important when choosing a coconut in the store to look for one that is still heavy with juice. Shake it and if it seems dry, chances are there is a leak in the shell or it may have sat on the shelf for too long evaporating all of the juice through the eyes. Also check the eyes and make sure they don't look dark or moldy. The inside of the coconut should be a pure white color, if it appears yellow it most probably is rancid.
Coconuts with lighter brown shells generally are not as fully matured as those with darker shells. The meat from the lighter coconuts is delicious as a snack or shredded to make fillings and toppings for snack foods, appetizers and desserts. Milk pressed from the lighter coconuts may be less creamy than good brands of canned coconut milk but its flavor can be fresher and tastier.
To crack a coconut, some people try banging it with a hammer. Others suggest poking holes in the eyes to drain the liquid before hammering. This actually isn't quite so easy. The eyes are small and the surrounding shell quite thick and hard. After much effort to jab them with a sharp object or puncture them with a nail, you may end up with a slow trickle, taking a lot longer to drain all the liquid out than you may have patience for. Here is the best way:
1. Hold coconut over a bowl in one hand such that the "midriff" rests in the middle of your palm, with the tip on one end and the eyes on the other.
2. Whack the coconut with the back (that is to say the blunt side) of a cleaver a few times all around the center until it cracks open cleanly into two nearly equal halves. Make sure you use the blunt side of the cleaver.
3. Catch the juice in the bowl as it drains from the cracks.
After the coconut is cracked, remove the meat from the shell and grate or shred it in a food processor. In olden days, people used wooden stool coconut graters that were carved into elaborate animal shapes (such graters are called gkra-dtai, meaning "rabbit"). Some were people-shaped, with the shredder sticking out of the mouth, or more comically, out of the rear end.
The Amazing Benefits Of Coconut Oil
Tropical 'oils' which include coconut, palm, palm kernel, cocoa, and shea nut, have traditionally been used by the people living in the regions where they grow for a very long time. They are used as fresh dietary staples. Tropical regions overall show a much lower incidence of heart disease and strokes than the temperate regions such as the United States.
Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids. The most predominant medium chain fatty acid it contains is lauric acid. These medium chain fatty acids are different from the long chain fatty acids found in other plant based oils. Long chain fatty acids are typically stored in the body as fat while medium chain fatty acids are burnt up quickly as an immediate source of energy.
Other benefits of coconut oil include helping keep the skin healthy and youthful in appearance and supporting the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
In scientific studies, lauric acid has been shown to neither raise of lower cholesterol. Caproic, caprylic and capric acids which are other medium chain fatty acids have been shown to lower cholesterol slightly.
"Never before in the history of man is it so important to emphasize the value of Lauric Oils. The medium chain fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mother's milk and have similar nutriceutical effects."
Jon J. Kabara, PhD - Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University
How Did Cocount Oil Get Such A Bad Reputation?
Beginning in the 1950s, public opinion towards saturated fats in general, and then later towards coconut oil in particular, began to turn negative. During World War II, the Japanese military occupied the Philippines and other South Pacific islands. The once plentiful supply of coconut oil which was popular as both a cooking oil and ingredient in numerous food products was virtually cut off from the United States.
Manufacturers began to develop alternative sources of cooking oils. (At his time it was also very expensive to make butter and the race was on to develop a butter substitute that was cheap - enter margarine). By the time the war was over, there was A LOT of money at stake in the promotion of these new polyunsaturated cooking oils and margarine. By the end of the 1950's, public opinion had turned totally against saturated fats like butter and coconut oil. Saturated fats were blamed for raising cholesterol and cholesterol was viewed as responsible for the rise in heart disease.
Throughout the ensuing decades, coconut oil continued to be demonized and in 1988 an entire campaign against all tropical oils was waged (mostly by the soybean industry) with a million dollars worth of ads placed in major newspapers across the country to connect these 'killer fats' with high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. The facts used in this campaign were FLAT OUT WRONG but the public was convinced.
The whole lipid theory of heart disease has been rejected by many researchers and doctors. Malcom Kendrick M.D., Dr. Mary Enig Ph.D., Uffe Ravnskov M.D., Ph.D (author of The Cholesterol Myths), George Mann M.D., Sc.D, and many other top researchers have written extensively on the flaws of the "cholesterol theory" of heart disease. Saturated fats, which make up 50% of our cell membranes, play a vital role in the health of our bones and protect the liver from the toxic effects of alcohol and drugs. They are also needed for the proper uptake and use of the essential fatty acids.
So if it wasn't saturated fats like coconut oil, what was the cause of the rapid rise of heart disease in the US? While there are many factors to consider, one thing we know is that after World War II there were some significant dietary changes in the American diet, including that push to consume those newly manufactured polyunsaturated oils.
Unfortunately, polyunsaturated oils such as corn, soy safflower, and canola are not stable and are prone to oxidation. Manufacturers developed a process to make them shelf stable by using hydrogenation. Hydrogenating, or partially hydrogenating these oils, also makes them more solid (mimicking saturated fats) and useful for baking and deep frying.
Research now shows that the processing of these polyunsaturated oils creates a whole new subclass of fats called trans fatty acids. These trans fatty acids are not found in nature, and are very toxic. Studies are now showing that trans fatty acids are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others.
These are also the absolute worst oils you could use in cooking. Frying destroys the antioxidants in oils and as such oxidizes the oils. This causes cross-linking, cyclization, double-bond shifts, fragmentation and polymerization of oils that cause far more damage than even trans fats do.
Detailed information on the history of coconut oil and the benefits of saturated fats can be found at the following sites:
Great Books With Accurate Information On Coconut Oil and Fats
Well researched book that shows you the innumerable health benefits from raw extra virgin coconut milk ranging from disease prevention to anti-aging.
This book provides a brief description of the many health benefits of virgin coconut oil. It is written in a reader-friendly, non-technical format and is filled with fascinating success stories and testimonials.
One of my favorite reference texts. Gives you a detailed and complete look at ALL fats - structure, function,health effects and benefits.
Try This Yummy Coconut Shrimp Curry!
It's to die for really...
This is a wonderful and simple curry which can be done very quickly for a fast lunch or dinner. This recipe is from a flavors of South East Asia cooking class.
What you need:
2 13.5 cans coconut milk
1/4 cup yellow curry paste
2 lb shrimp (about 21 -25 count) peeled and deveined
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
3 Tbsp palm sugar (do not use refined white sugar!)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
10 cherry tomatoes
2 chilie strips, thai bird seeds removed
2 lime leaves
also it is nice to add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, broccoli, red peppers or whatever other vegetables you enjoy.
1. Skim the thick coconut cream from the top of 1 inch of each can, place in pan and cook, stirring constantly until the coconut milk begins to seperate.
2. Add curry paste and cook until aromatic, at least 2 minutes
3. Add shrimp and vegetables (if using them) and lime leaves, mix well to coat shrimp with paste
4. Add fish sauce, sugar, salt and remaining coconut milk, bring to a simmer
5. Add tomatoes and chili slices.
The Amazing Benefits Of Coconut Milk
Coconut milk differs from the coconut water found inside the coconut. Coconut milk is the diluted cream pressed out from the thick white flesh of a fully matured coconut.
To make coconut milk, finely grated coconut meat is steeped in hot water until it is cool. Then it is then squeezed until dry; the white fluid is strained and the pulp is removed. When allowed to sit for a while, the coconut cream (hua gkati) rises to the top. (Commercially, coconut cream is obtained by pressing grated coconut flesh by itself without water, using a specialized, heavy piece of machinery.)
The process is repeated a second and sometimes third time by adding more hot water to yield a lighter fluid, or coconut milk. The second pressing results in coconut milk called (nahm gkati) and the third pressing results in an even lighter coconut milk called (hahng gkati). An average mature coconut yields about one cup of coconut cream and one to two cups of coconut milk depending on how light a milk is desired. The milk is best for stewing meats, coconut soup or a light curry.
Most people don't have time to make their own coconut milk from scratch. Good thing there are canned varieties easily available. Not all brands of canned coconut milk are good however. Good coconut milk has a clean, white color and tastes rich, creamy and mildly sweet with the essence of coconut. It should also have a complexity and depth of flavor and not leave an unpleasant aftertaste. As is true with other kinds of natural cream that has not been artificially homogenized, natural coconut cream will rise to the top and separate from the heavier water component. A brand we use and find excellent is Chao Koh as it is light and has a delicate natural flavor.
For recipes requiring coconut cream, do not shake the can before opening; spoon out the thick cream on top. On hot days, refrigerate the can so that the cream will harden and can be easily separated from the lighter milk.
Coconut milk contains lauric acid, which as discussed in more detail elsewhere on this page is the same fat found in abundance in mother's milk and is known to promote normal brain development and contribute to healthy bones. It also has important anti-carcinogenic and anti-pathogenic properties and is less likely to cause weight gain than processed polyunsaturated oils.
Whatever bad things you may have heard or read about coconut milk have not stood up to scrutiny by unbiased food scientists; however, the goodness of coconut milk has not been given equal press because of intensive lobbying against it by the powerful vegetable oil industry. Southeast Asians, meanwhile, have been staying healthy for generations with coconut an integral part of their diet.
Please see: http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/features/cocgood.html/ for more information.
Coconut milk is the base of most Thai curries. (Please see a recipe for my very favorite curry below) To make the curry sauce, coconut cream is first reduced over fairly high heat to break down the cream and allow the oil to separate. The curry paste is then added and fried in the coconut oil until all the herb and spice flavors are released and blended before the rest of the coconut milk is added to make the sauce. Finished Thai curries will have a thin layer of oil floating on top of the sauce. This oil picks up the color of the curries - bright red for red curry, glistening green for green curry, and so on - giving them a lovely appearance rather than a dull, whitish sameness.
Recommended Brands Of Coconut Oil, Milk and Water:
Good brands of coconut milk such as this one, will have thick cream floating on top of the can while the milk on the bottom will be much more watery. Brands with milk that looks homogenized tend to have an artificial taste because of additives introduced to make the cream homogenize, or excess processing which changes the nature of the cream. This brand also has a delicate, sweet natural flavor. .
Zico is 100% pure coconut water with natural flavor essences. With five essential electrolytes, more potassium than a banana, low acidity, no fat, no sugar added, and no cholesterol, Zico is the natural, refreshing way to hydrate and replenish.
This is the coconut oil I use at home. It's cold pressed, extra virgin and organic. Tastes great too. When selecting a coconut oil, be sure it is extra virgin as cheap coconut oil is highly processed (hydrogentated) and therefore unhealthy.
This is organic, raw, whole coconut meat, dried at low temperature then pureed into butter...melts in your mouth. Artisana has defined their Coconut Butter with a signature puree of coconut meat, yielding a fibrous, densely nutritious spread and a wonderful ingredient in raw desserts, smoothies, savory dishes and snacks.
The Amazing Benefits Of Coconut Water
Many people know of the benefits associated with extra virgin coconut oil, but did you know that coconut water has amazing health benefits as well?
Coconut water has been used as a health and beauty aid and for re-hydration purposes in tropical regions around the world for centuries. Coconut water is low in fat and calories, has no cholesterol, and has a natural balance of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium- making it a healthy electrolyte drink.
The electrolyte balance in coconut water is the same as that in our blood - it is identical to human blood plasma. During World War II both sides in the conflict regularly used coconut water - siphoned directly from the nut - to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Coconut water has saved many lives in the third world through a coconut IV.
When compared to sports drinks: Coconut water has more potassium (at about 294 mg) compared to about 117mg. It also has only 5 mg of natural sugars whereas typical energy drinks range from 10 - 25 mg of altered sugars.
When compared to milk: coconut water has less fat and no cholesterol. It also contains lauric acid, which is present in human mother's milk yet not present in infant formula. The lauric acid in coconuts can be used to heal digestive tract disorders such as Leaky Gut Syndrome. It can be used to help both babies and adults with intestinal problems.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, it helps to prevent intestinal gas, aids in removing toxins and increases the digestive tract's ability to absorb nutrients. Coconut balances acid levels and flushes toxins out. Ayurveda considers coconut a natural stress-buster.
The calming, cooling benefits of coconut water relieves burning sensations and hot flashes and "restores emotional stability in menopausal women". This property of coconut water also makes it an excellent choice for liver problems, hepatitis or inflammation.
Since it regulates the functioning of the intestine, the coconut water also gives the user a smoother and pretty skin. It can even be used directly on the skin and hair for hydration and is found in many beauty products.
Coconut water is naturally sterile - water permeates through filtering the husk! However, once it is exposed to the air, the liquid rapidly loses most of its nutritional characteristics and begins to ferment. Because of this, it is best to get your coconut water straight from the coconut (and enjoy the delicious coconut meat in the process!). If that cannot be done, be sure you choose a source that is harvested, processed and packaged with no added preservatives, nutrients, sugars, minerals and salts.
Try This Yummy Cocounut Mango Rice
It's just delicious!
* 5 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
* 1 can of coconut milk (regular or lite)
* 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
* 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 - 2 tablespoons agave nectar or other sweetener
* 2 limes (optional)
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1. In a large saucepan simmer coconut milk, agave nectar and salt over moderate heat for a minute or two.
2. Add the bell pepper and simmer briefly until pepper just starts to soften a bit.
3. Stir in the rice and heat until warmed through, covering if needed to make sure the moisture doesn't all cook off.
4. Stir in the mango. (If the mango was refrigerated, cook over low heat until just warm.) Taste and season as desired.
Serving suggestion: Add a squeeze of fresh lime and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro just before eating for a fresh flavor sensation!
In addition to the many benefits the coconut imparts to this dish, ripe mangoes contain vitamin A, C and B6, potassium and copper. They are also high in fiber and low in fat. Beta-carotene, the form of Vitamin A found in mangoes, may help slow the aging process, reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, improve lung function, and reduce complications of diabetes.
Recipe from: Robin L. Schiesser, L.Ac . | www.acupunctureboulder.com | 720-320-1075
The Coconut Crab - Check this guy out!
The Coconut Crab is the largest arthropod in the world, weighing in a 8-10lbs with legs up to a yard long. The coconut crab gets it's name for its ability to crack coconuts with its claws. Although large and frightening in appearance, they are not aggressive towards humans and are very slow moving. They can be lured with an open coconut and are served as a delicacy in the Philippines, apparently they taste delicious.
Photo taken from: www.abovetheaether.com/2007/09/17/coconut-crab/
Other Cool Coconut Stuff!
My Favorite Coconut Memories
I love cooking with coconut oil and enjoy eating coconut meat. I also admit to being a tropical island junkie and have so many great memories associated with the coconut and the lovely coconut tree. Here are a few of my favorites:
On my semi around the world trip, our last stop was the small island of Fiji. We spent days lounging in the sun, relaxing, swimming and eating amazing Island food. The native boys would climb the trees and pick the coconuts for us to eat. I remember packing 6 coconuts in my bag to take home with me! The guy at customs thought I was crazy.
On my second trip to Australia traveling up the coast with some new friends, we found a coconut while walking along the beach and simply could not get it open. finally we rolled over it with the back wheels of the car and that smashed it open. We dined on coconut with our fruit salad as we watched the sun set over an empty white sand beach.
In Costa Rica my friends and I hiked 15 miles through Corcovado national park to a tiny research station. We were unprepared and did not have our own food and we also did not have enough cash to pay for 3 meals a day. So each day we were there we hiked to the beach, found some coconuts and broke into them for our lunch.
When I was in Panama and staying on a small island with the Kuna indians, they provided all the meals but portions were small and there were no snacks to be found. Scrounging the island for coconuts for snacks was our solution!
When I went to the island of Cayman Brac to rock climb (great sea cliff climbing...maybe I'll write a lens..lol) I just had to have a fresh coconut. Unfortunatley when I walked out across a field of hundreds of them, I rolled my ankle which swelled up and prevented me from climbing for 2 days. Thankfully there was the beach at which I could recover (while eating my coconut).
Do you have a coconut story to share? I'd love to hear it.
Try this Yummy Ranch Salad Dressing!
To start you need:
4 tbsp cider vinegar (try 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar plus 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or 4 tbsp of rice vinegar)
1/2-tsp dry mustard
Spike or other seasoning to taste
Add the above ingredients to your blender. Then very slowly dribble into blender one cup of oil consisting of about 3/4-cup coconut oil (melted and cooled) plus 1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil to the blender and blend till smooth. (The more coconut oil, the thicker the dressing). (If oil added too fast, or oil is too hot, mixture will curdle).
Then add the following ingredients to the mayonnaise you just made to make a thick and creamy Ranch dressing that can be uses as a substitute for mayonnaise:
1-1/4 cup buttermilk
4-6 tbsp or so sour cream, cream cheese or honey yogurt
Onion flakes to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Juice of one lemon
Spike to taste or other seasoning
Blend until smooth. Refrigerate. This dressing will thicken as it cools. You can use it instead of mayonnaise and can dilute it with more buttermilk if you want a thinner Ranch dressing. If this tastes too tart, add a little honey.
Recipe source: http://www.coconutoil.com/litalee.htm
Thanks for stopping by, I'd love to hear from you!