I recently traveled to a region where coconuts grow and brought a coconut, husk and all, back home with me. I absolutely love coconut water, but I try not to indulge in it as I tend to feel guilty about the packaging. Many of us here at PD feel this struggle! So, imagine my delight when I was able to forage for my own to bring back home with me.
My beautiful coconut on the beach nearby where I foraged it.
My animals had never met a coconut before.
But I completely underestimated how difficult getting into a coconut husk actually is! I watched several instructional videos online and eventually came across the myriad coconut husking tools available for purchase, many of which cost $100.00 or more. But don’t buy those, because I eventually figured out that all you need is a claw hammer.
How to open your coconut with just a claw hammer:
Take the claw end of the hammer and hit the top of the coconut. If you are unsure which end is the “top,” look for an indention on one end. (This is where the coconut grew from the tree. See below). You’ll want to give it a good smack, but try to avoid smashing it as you may damage the nut inside.
Still using the claw end of the hammer, hit the coconut a few more times to the right and left of where you first hit it. Then, begin using the claw end of the hammer to hit from the top of the coconut (where you started) in a “line” down to the bottom. Turn the coconut a few degrees either direction and repeat until you have made at least four good “lines” from the top to the bottom. At this point, you should be able to begin pulling off the husk from one of the quarters of the coconut. Search for the weakest point, and from there it gets much easier. My progress appears below.
By this time the hard part is over and you will be able to reveal the entire nut.
I want to be honest; this was challenging for me! But I cannot articulate the satisfaction I felt when I succeeded. My neighbor, a male, “couldn’t believe” that I did it myself and jokingly accused me of enlisting the help of a muscly other. But he is wrong. I giddily jumped up and down while I boasted about my success.
Every step of this process is a mindfulness activity. Especially if you are, like me, new to foraging/harvesting your own coconut. During my travels I learned from a local that many people in the Western world will simply discard coconuts that fall from trees onto their property. I can’t imagine doing that. From exploring the mangrove and discovering the fallen nuts, to hauling it around all day, to figuring out how to open it, every step of the way provided new sights, textures, smells and, finally, tastes. If you are able to do this yourself, I encourage you to take your time! Pick your coconut apart. Explore every bit of it.
And use every bit of it.
To crack your nut, use the claw end of the hammer to make a small crack. Once I had that done, I was able to use my hands to pull mine apart into two halves.
My coconut was mature, so the meat was fairly hard and there was not as much water as I would have liked. Since then, I’ve learned that young green coconuts which are heavy are the most full of water. The meat of young green coconuts also differs, as it is more soft and jelly-like than the meat of a mature coconut like mine. But I digress. Like I said, every part of the coconut, husk included, can be used.
So what is that white ball, sitting in the coconut water?
Apparently this is called the coconut “embryo”. This indicates that my coconut was female and she was planning to sprout. And this embryo is delicious. Imagine the consistency of a watermelon, but richly flavored like coconut, and drenched in coconut water. Like, coconut water dribbling down your chin kind of drenched. I ate mine upon returning from a three mile run and it was just.. perfect. The coconut water can obviously be drunk. The white meat can be eaten either raw, or grated and baked in the oven to produce “toasted” coconut. And as for the nut shell, it can be composted.
However, coconut husks can take up to ten years to decompose. So instead, if you’re into gardening, you can actually add your coconut husk remnants to soil, where it helps regulate moisture and protects against over watering, just like peat moss.
And if you’re not into gardening, coconut husk can even be used for animal care! It is an ideal addition to “bedding” for burrowing animals as it absorbs odors and breaks down waste. It is suitable for small animals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
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Photo: R. Coker