The Fruit of Paradise
Coconuts come from one of the world’s most versatile trees, with virtually all parts being useful. The leaves are used for making fans, baskets and thatch. The husk fibre is great for mats, stuffing and rope. Coconut timber is highly regarded for its fine grain and high-polish finish. The nutshells make great containers, and even the root can be chewed as a narcotic
And of course you can eat (and drink) from it, too
The edible parts of the coconut are well known for their great taste and nutritious benefits. The flesh from a coconut can be eaten either ripe or unripe, raw or cooked, and is a staple food in the tropics.
Coconut milk is commonly imbibed the world over, but is not the only part of the coconut that may be drunk. The sweet liquid from the flower buds can be made into an alcoholic beverage called arrack, and can also be boiled down to produce palm sugar.
Then there is the oil. Coconut oil is typically extracted from the dried flesh of harvested coconuts.
The traditional method of extracting the oil is pounding the copra (dried coconut flesh) with a mortar and pestle. (Coconut oil may have been the first vegetable oil in history to be utilized by man.)
A greater yield can now be achieved through mechanical extraction, but the method remains essentially the same.
Coconut trees are prolific manufacturers. A healthy tree can commonly yield 200 nuts per year. This quantity of nuts can produce 18 kg of oil, along with 34 kg of coconut milk and 14 kg of flour. Residue from the extraction process is highly regarded as a meal for livestock.
The world’s largest producer of coconuts is the Philippines, with an estimated 324 million coconut trees under cultivation. The Philippines represent 59% of the world’s coconut exports, with more than 1 in 4 of all Philippinos being in some way dependent on the coconut industry for their livelihoods.
Thus the long-term future of coconut products and their availability seems bright. Good news indeed for the growing numbers of people re-discovering coconuts as the healthier alternative to vegetable-based unsaturated oils.