Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mak Pow! (coconut)

Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve loved coconut. Yet, it has taken me a full lifetime to really know and understand what it is; its variety and different uses.

Growing up as a kid, my only exposure to this fruit was in the form of sugared flakes and coconut milk ice cream. Later, as a young man, I got into coconut-pineapple juice. What a great combination coconut milk and pineapple juice is!

It wasn’t until I became a father that I finally came in contact with a real coconut, learned how to crack open the hard inner shell, drink the juice and pry out the “meat.” It was only then that I understood that “coconut milk” was different than “coconut juice,” and was made by pulverizing the white inner core.

Living in Ojai and Santa Barbara, California, “back in the day,” all the coconuts used to come from Mexico (nowadays, of course, there is more variety). They tended to be all of one kind: thick inner cores with juice that was good but not sweet.

Now retired in Northeastern Thailand, I have almost two dozen coconut trees on our home property and almost monthly I learn a new aspect about them and coconuts in general. There are actually many kinds of coconuts and how they are used varies.

My wife Thiphawan and I have two kinds of coconut trees. One kind produces thin “meat” you can easily scoop with a spoon and the juice is sweet. The other kind is similar to the Mexican: the juice is good, but not sweet, and you have to pry out the actual coconut in order to eat it or else grade it out. The former is used mostly for on-the-spot drinking and then eating. The later is mostly used for cooking, once the juice is drained or drunk.

Although I’ve learned how to de-husk the things, I still am not very good at it. I’ve also learned the correct technique for cracking open the inner shell; how to make coconut flakes and even how to bring a tree down.

No, I haven’t learned how to climb a coconut tree, but there are some kon thai who do.

Originally, I was going to title this post “If The 8 Turned Out To Be 5” (a take off of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9”), because we recently had to cut down three of our eight adult trees. I didn’t want to do it, but feel it was the prudent thing to do since they were so close to our house. We have one that is still pretty close, but it is leaning quite a bit away from the building, so I’m fairly confident we can keep it over the long haul.

Most of our younger coconut trees are less than two years old, as we are in the early stages of repopulating an area of the village that used to be a thick coconut grove.

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