No one knows exactly where the coconut came from! People argue about it. Some say it came from tropical America and others insist that it is an Asian species. The truth is that it is everywhere and useful to people wherever it is. The plant it is most closely related to isn’t in Asia or the Americas - it is in Southern Africa! There are ancient temples in Indonesia and India dedicated to coconuts - but it is far older than the temples. The word ‘copra’ meaning dried meat of the coconut is actually a sanscrit word.
The word niu comes from ancient voyagers who carried the fruit with them on long voyages for the meat and water it contained. From Madagascar to Hawaii the niu is known by some variant of this name. The coconut likes warm weather and because of that is usually found on the sunny hot sides of Hawaiian Islands. Coconut trees live to be around 70 years old and can grow as tall as 100 feet! Leaves are 10-20 feet long and have around 100 leaflets on them. It takes about 10 years for the first coconuts to appear. Maturation of the fruit takes almost 10 months.
Ripe coconuts have three ‘eyes’ - these are softer tissue and tell smart humans where to access the meat and water inside. Coconut milk is actually the juice derived from crushing the meat - the water inside the fruit is not coconut juice at all.....it's known as coconut water!
Coconuts were valuable to Hawaiians as food, water, voyaging supplies and more. The trunks were sometimes made into canoes. The leaves would be woven into baskets and mats. The mid-ribs of the leaves were used to string kukui nuts in order to make torches. Old flower clusters were used as rakes. Every part of the fruit could be used. The fibres from the husk could be made into ropes and twine. Coconut shells were made into cups and containers. Pieces of the shell would be made into tools and implements like combs.
In addition to being food, the meat of the coconut was sometimes chewed by fishermen and spat into the sea - the oil would calm the ripples and allow the fishermen to see his prey better.
Here's a quick demonstration on how to open a coconut. Brought to you by your thirsty staff here at Private Tours Hawaii:
There are many more uses of the humble coconut. Just watch out for them falling on your head.
And, as always.....Aloha from Paradise!!