Coconut – The Miracle Wonder Fruit

This is my third article in my series of articles pertaining to fruit trees that I have grown in my property here at Kadri and Merlapadau. Totally at both places I have about 28 -30 trees bearing coconuts, and a few young trees.  I can see when the coconuts are ready. But there?s a problem of tracking down elusive coconut plucker’s. Plucker’s are in short supply and they know it. Often we have to beg them to pluck the tree in time. Even getting an appointment with a doctor is easier these days. Few months back I had to deal with a plucker who was so drunk that after climbing halfway up the third tree, he stopped and clung to it, refusing to climb up or slide down. However we managed to get him down with help from the neighbors.

The price of plucking has gone high too. Earlier I used to pay Rs 25-30, but now it’s Rs 50 to climb a tree-doesn’t matter if he plucks just one or two coconuts. Coconut plucking is one of the host of traditional occupations which are drying up here. Caste stigma, modern education and the sense of ?menial-ness? socially associated with the chore have left coconuts literally high and dry and out of reach. But I am lucky to have one of our regular coconut plucker, who obliges me when he is free-since he does some farming too. Thanks to Coconut Plucker Vishwanath, for coming to my rescue in getting the coconuts down for me?
The coconut palms grow abundantly along the coasts of tropical environments.Botanically, coconut plant belongs within the Arecaceae family of palm trees and has the scientific name: Cocos nucifera. The coconut tree has been called the “Tree of Life” for its uncanny (nearly miraculous) healing properties and usefulness. A study of the coconut tree reveals an almost supernatural evolution to become one of the most useful species of plant life known to man. Coconut palm flourishes well along the coastal tropical environments. A coconut tree may yield several hundred tender nuts each season. Different species of coconut palms are grown all over the tropics. Naturally, their taste and flavor of water show variations according to saline content in the soil, distance from sea shore, mainland, etc.

The palm can yield 150 to 200 coconuts a season and each coconut contains 200ml to 1000ml of water depending on its cultivator size and type. This water is rich in vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes, amino acids and cytokine. This water is now popular all over the world for its refreshing nutty taste as well as its health benefits. Any nuts younger than five months of age tend to be bitter in taste and devoid of nutrients. In contrast, mature nuts contain less water, and their endosperm thickens quickly to white edible meat (kernel). Coconut milk obtained from the meat is therefore should not be confused with coconut water. Coconut milk is obtained by grating and grinding this ?meat? and passing it through a sieve. It is very high in fat content ? a cup of coconut milk has 550 calories whereas coconut water has only 50 calories a cup.
The coconut is a valuable food in the Pacific Islands and Asian countries. It is a staple on atolls and important on other islands. This food is inexpensive, is readily available and has many uses. The coconut tree’s scientific name cocos nucifera. It is tall with a long trunk and a crown of leaves. These long fan-shaped leaves surround the growing point of the tree. Coconuts grow on stalks from inside the base of the leaves. There are many varieties. Dwarfs grow to about 14 feet and flower about three years after planting. The tall varieties grow up to 80 feet and flower in about eight years. Some coconuts are crossed between dwarfs and talls.

The tree bears nuts all the year long. They may be different sizes, shapes, colors and weights. The nuts are harvested when they are young, or left to ripen and fall. It takes about a year after the tree flowers for the nut to mature. Coconuts are mature when the water inside can be heard when the nuts are shaken. The Philippines leads in coconut production, followed by Indonesia and India. These fruit-bearing palms also are native to Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia, and are now also prolific in South America, Pacific Islands and Hawai, and also in some parts of USA.
The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity. It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall. Coconuts also need high humidity for optimum growth. They are hard to establish in dry climates and cannot grow there without frequent irrigation. Coconut palms require warm conditions for successful growth and are intolerant of cold weather. Growing coconut palms in Illinois is impossible.
Coconuts are both an energy and a protective food. The mature coconut is an energy food because it contains lots of fat. Fresh tender coconut water is very high in vitamin C. Other vitamins are found in coconuts, including niacin. Also found in coconuts are minerals such as iron, which makes blood strong. Since coconuts lack protein and calcium, high protein foods like meat, fish, eggs, beans and leafy vegetables should be eaten with coconut for a balanced diet.

Mature coconut flesh has many uses. It can be eaten plain. Dried, it makes a delicious snack. Fermented, it has vitamins that pregnant women need. Grated, it is cooked or is squeezed to make coconut cream. Coconut cream flavors fish, meat, seafood, and vegetables cooked in it. Many Thai and Indian curries are created with coconut cream. There are many things we hardly know about the wonders of fresh tender coconut water. Coconut water is the soft, watery liquid inside of young coconuts, which is different from the fluid in mature coconuts, and neither are to be confused with coconut milk. People who have diarrhea drink coconut water to get fluids and minerals back that have been lost. In emergencies, doctors have used coconut water as an intravenous fluid.
Consuming tender coconut water has helped infants with intestinal disturbances. It has also served as a organic growth promoting, cooling, intestinal-worm killing tonic for the elderly and infirm. It is reported to assist with urinary infections, digestive and sexual problems, like an all-natural Viagra. Coconut water is also thought to fix malnourishment; it can balance body chemistry, prevent disease and help fight cancer.
Nonfood coconut products are used by people all over the world. Oils pressed from dried coconut are used in soaps, cosmetics and hair oil. The fibers from coconut husks make mats, mattresses and rope. Coconut shells are used for utensils, cups, bowls, bottles and ornaments. Coconut leaves are used for making mats, baskets, hats, fans and thatching. Palm midribs make tongs, toys, whistles, fences and walls. The trunks which are so hard are used to make timber, furniture and fence posts. Charcoal is also made from any waste trunks or shells. You can buy all coconut products, including coconut water at ethnic grocery stores, especially Thai, Indian or any Asian stores.
With all the healing benefits and wonders of coconut it is easy to see why it is considered a new miracle fruit and food, cure all, and overall best health source. Coconut may not be the next best wonder fruit, but given the health benefits, it can be worth eating. Let’s all go nuts with coconuts!

About the Author:

Joe D’Souza, who had worked as a electrical engineer in Chicago Suburbs, USA for nearly 38 years is presently enjoying his retired life in Mangalore. His hobbies are writing, reading, music, and especially gardening and cultivation. He is a “Jack of all Trades” and is always ready to help anyone having any problems with their plumbing, electrical, building, landscape etc problems-and that’s how he spends his happy retired life. He has planted various fruit plants like Mango, pineapple, coconut, banana, guava, jack fruit, papaya, etc in his property, so look forward for his articles on these tropical fruits.

Author: Joe DSouza- Mangalore