Thursday, July 17, 2008
I remember as a child, pleading with my mom on grocery trips to "Please, please, please buy a coconut!" I was sure it would be something absolutely awesome. I had seen palm trees in pictures. They were tropical, beautiful and exotic. I was SURE that one of those coconuts must be absolutely delicious. Plus, I had tried a Mounds Bar, so I knew it would be.
Of course, after listening to me beg week after week, my mom finally relented, with the promise: "you think this will taste good, but you are not going to like it." She was right. As usual.
Years later, it was my turn in the grocery store. My 6-year-old perks up at the sight of a funny looking coconut in the produce section, "Oh, mom, mom! Can we get one of these?!?"
"Um, you really want one of those?"
"Yeah, yeah, these things grow on palm trees, mom!"
I relented. It is hereditary. But, on the trip home I decided that this little coconut could be a teaching opportunity, not just a bad purchase decision. And so it was.
coconut you purchase at the grocery store is the "seed" of the coconut tree. The husk has been removed, and it is fully mature. The coconut (husk and all) is a part of the drupe family which makes it a fruit. So, essentially you are eating the seed (endosperm) of the coconut fruit when you crack the shell (pit) open.
A coconut makes a great seed discussion. It is a seed of mega-proportions. My kids were quite impressed to find out that if we planted the full coconut (husk and all) in soil, it would indeed become a coconut palm.
You can watch this YouTube video to teach you a little bit about the coconut, and to see one way to open it. Note: he is using the back of a knife, not the sharp edge.
To open mine, I opted to use the directions found here. I would definitely drain the coconut first before opening it by puncturing the "mouth." If you read the directions, you will be able to easily locate the "mouth" of the coconut. I used a small screwdriver to do this, and it was actually quite easy. I would definitely sample the coconut water. If it is a mature coconut, the water will not be so great -it is supposedly only tasty when the coconut is young- but still an experience, albeit slightly unpleasant. I used a hammer to open the coconut (once again using the above directions) and found it not quite so easy. I am sure our neighbors downstairs assumed we were starting some sort of home improvement project during our coconut cracking session, because it took quite a few whacks.
Prying the coconut meat off of your cracked coconut shell is no easy task. Some people bake the uncracked coconut in the oven at 325 for 30 minutes, and claim this allows the meat to detach from the shell easier. If you do this you need to pierce the eyes of the coconut before baking, and make sure you let the coconut cool down before hammering away.
When you have successfully pried all of the coconut meat off, there are all sorts of things you can do with it, which is good- because chances are your kids will not gobble up the raw sampling they receive. Here are some yummy ideas:
Homemade Coconut Milk
Coconut Custard Pie
Fresh Coconut Cake
Coconut-Cashew Basmati Rice
The next time we are in Hawaii I am going to make a point of sampling the coconut water of a fresh coconut, which is supposedly delicious. I am hoping to find this guy around to help me remove the husk.