Coconuts are palm tree seeds. You knew that already, right? The coconut palm yields up to 75 fruits a year and most parts of the coconut are used.
The husk is used in Thailand as a potting medium, in India the husk is used to make coir which is then used to make rope, rugs and door mats. The shells are used in India to make bowls and buttons. The inside of the coconut is used to make coconut oil, and the white, fleshy part is eaten fresh or dried and used in cooking.
Coconut is high in fiber but its most plentiful nutrient is fat. This was disappointing news because I love coconut. The oil accounts for 85% of the calories in coconut meat. Coconut, like other nuts, has B vitamins, and iron and zinc. A 2″ x 2″ piece of coconut has 4g of dietary fiber, 15g of fat, 1.09 mg iron, 0.49 zinc, and about 140 calories.
You want to hear liquid inside, and choose the largest, heaviest one you can find. If you don’t hear liquid when you shake it, the coconut has dried out and you shouldn’t buy it.
Store fresh coconuts in the refrigerator and use within two weeks. Shredded fresh coconut should be refrigerated in a covered container. Use within 2 days. Keep dried coconut in the fridge in an air-tight and moisture-proof container. It will keep up to 3 months.
You’re ready to use it…now what?
The thought of opening the coconut has prevented me from buying fresh coconuts. Here’s what I’ve learned: Get a hammer and whack it. Break it into smaller pieces. That doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?
Once open, if you can’t pry the white flesh away from the shell, bake the pieces at 350 degrees for15 – 20 minutes or until the white meat pulls away.
Separate the white meat from the shell. Grate or peel the meat into strips with a vegetable peeler and use or store. Shredded coconut can be frozen.
Do you speak coconut?:
Coconut milk – The high fat liquid left after boiling and straining fresh coconut meat. Can be found in cans in grocery stores.
Coconut cream – This comes from boiling and straining 1 part water or milk and 4 parts fresh coconut meat. Cream of coconut is sweetened and thickened and used in desserts.
Desiccated grated coconut – is also known as dried coconut and comes in granular form, or large shreds. It can be a substitute for sweetened coconut.
Sweetened coconut – is sweetened with sugar before it is dried and preserved.
Coconut oil – This is a saturated fat and has a long shelf life. It adds flavor to foods.
My favorite uses of coconut:
A garnish for curry – Thai chicken curry recipe
Coconut macaroons especially when dipped in chocolate
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