April 19, 2008

Drat! He picked them too soon

Coconuts, La Ceiba, HondurasGreen coconuts

El Jefe, without my knowledge or consent, picked two of the coconuts that he thought were ready. Before he even opened them, I was lamenting, "Why, why, why? How do you know they are ready? I wanted real coconut to cook with!" Whine, whine, whine.

Water coconuts, La Ceiba, HondurasI guess it was my fault because I still hadn't looked it up to find out how to judge when they are ready. Reader Patty told me that many Hondurans tend to like the coconut water in an unripe coconut more than the actual coconut meat. I later read that the liquid is sweeter and more plentiful when the coconuts are still green.

Until Patty told me that, I didn't even know why some coconuts didn't have coconut meat inside. I mistakenly thought that there were different varieties, some valued for the liquid and others for the coconut meat. I was hoping that we had the right kind. I guess they are all the right kind; it is just a matter of how long you leave them to ripen.

To show my complete ignorance on the subject of coconuts (Cocos in Spanish; botanical name Cocos nucifera), the only ones I'd remembered seeing were those small, hairy ones in the grocery stores that already had the outer shell removed. I thought that was how they grew on the palm!

I thought that these large yellow and green ones here in Honduras were a completely different variety. Since I had never lived in an area where they were grown, and got most of my coconut knowledge from a Baker's Angel Flake plastic bag (grated, sweetened, dried, and pasteurized coconut), what did I know? I obviously hadn't paid too much attention when I have visited tropical places. El Jefe likes to laugh at things like this about me. That's okay. I let him and I'm glad he enjoys it. ;-D

El Jefe was appropriately apologetic about the misjudgment. He said that he thought they were ready − meat and all. Of course, he got a straw and enjoyed the coconut milk much too much for me to completely believe that.

Then he took a spoon and scooped out and ate the soft coconut from the inside of the shell. I tried it but it was too slimy for me and definitely not anything I could make macaroons out of.

Unripe coconuts, La Ceiba, HondurasCoconut at this stage is known as water coconut, not to be confused with coconut water, which is the clear liquid inside − and coconut water should not be confused with coconut milk, coconut cream, or cream of coconut which are all entirely different things. Good explanations of the differences can be found at Kate's Global Kitchen. The texture of water coconut is somewhat like jelly or a soft boiled egg.

Oh, well. I've forgiven him. We still have several coconuts to go. Maybe we'll share them 50-50 − I might go out right now and mark a big X on all the ones that I have dibs on!

This experience did finally prod me into researching the harvesting of coconuts. I found out we have a long time to go before my coconuts are ready.

I found that it takes a full year from flowering to harvesting a ripe coconut! The tall coconut palms (70-80 feet, 21-25 meters) produce after 7 to 8 years and can live for 60-80 years. Dwarf coconut palms (14-30 feet, 4-9 meters) like we have, begin to produce after only 3 years, but live only 30-40 years. Dwarf coconut palms are also resistant to the Lethal Yellowing disease which has devastated coconut palms in Honduras and many other countries.

If this photo caption is correct, we need to wait until the outer shell is brown. Several sources state that you can just wait until the coconut falls to the ground. By my calculations, that is probably going to be about August or September.

I can be patient.


The tree of life - coconuts

Vegetarians in Paradise
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