Friday, March 11, 2011

India: Coconuts 101

Anyone else love coconut as much as I do?  (I know one of my readers is highly allergic to coconut so I hope reading this post doesn't make you start to swell up!!)

I love it for its taste and for its versatility.  You can put it into sweet dishes, savory dishes, make coconut milk for many different types of foods, PLUS - the oil!  Oh, the oil!! I put coconut oil in my lip balm and lotion bars, rub it into our skin as if it were lotion itself, use it as a conditioner (used before you wash your hair) and cook with it!  So being in India was wonderful because there are TONS of coconut everywhere and at a pretty nice price.  My mother-in-law sent us home with a coconut.  I think she said it cost 12 rupees (about 45 rupees makes a dollar).  At Walmart the other day, I saw I could buy a coconut for $2.50! Ouch!  (I haven't priced them at the Asian stores, yet.  I'm hoping they're less expensive there.)

Since coconut is so plentiful there have been many ways discovered to use it in its various forms.  Here is a shot of baby coconuts - as far as I know, still too small to do anything with.

A shot of the coconut tree
A close-up of the baby coconuts

Once the coconuts grow a bit bigger they start getting used.  You can use a big knife to cut through the green outer shell and then you can get to the coconut water and the tender coconut:

The glass has some of the water in it.  I think we got about 3 full glasses out of this coconut - there is a lot in there.  It is very refreshing and cooling and quite healthy (great for the baby, I was told!).  The spoon is in there so the white "meat" could be eaten.  It is slimy so if you have a texture issue you might not be able to handle this.  It is quite tasty, though!

This was a dried husk I found on the rooftop.  Pretty much the same thing as above, just dried out:

When left to grow bigger the coconuts turn into more like what you're used to seeing.  They use the back of a knife (so the dull part) to crack the hard outer shell open.  You sort of hit the coconut along the same spot all around the coconut (think like you're going around the equator).  It pops open and you can catch/drink the water from this, too.  Great to use for cooking.  Now.  How do you get the coconut out?? 

Indians use a fun tool to scrape it all out.  Here is Ajay 2 years ago scraping:

You sit on it so it doesn't move then you scrape the "meat" out with this small metal plate that has sharp "teeth."
One of the very first things Ajay wanted to do was scrape coconut!! So, of course, Alex wanted to, too!  (I apologize for the sideways video.  I keep forgetting that I can't turn it to face the right direction once I'm done recording!)


Everyone, especially Ajay, was afraid Alex would slip and slice his hand open on the teeth!!

There is also a more portable, space saving option.  It clamps onto your table top and you can scrape the coconut while standing.  We came home with one of these to use.  We haven't use it yet but I'm hoping to soon!

When you're all done with the coconut you can use the outer shell as "firewood."  In Kerala they have a gas top stove (like you saw in yesterdays post) but they also have a stove that burns coconut husks (and other sticks/debris) - they usually use this to boil rice or cook anything that will take a long time to cook.  Why pay for the use of gas when you get these shells for free?

You can see the coconut shell in there burning, plus, look under the counter - you can see tons more! (The photo is a bit blurry because the kitchen lights were shut off - the camera couldn't focus well in the dark.)
Same shot as above just taken without the flash to show the flame.

I think that sums up what I have to say about coconuts.  Any questions?

1 comment:

erin said...