Samui Wining & Dining
CRAZY ABOUT COCONUTS?
Let’s investigate the many uses of this most versatile tree.

Let’s investigate the many uses of this most versatile tree.Not so many years ago, before Koh Samui was really ‘discovered’ and the island began its rapid development, the main source of income on this idyllic paradise island, was from the humble coconut tree. Both the tree and its fruit have many practical uses, ranging from health and nutrition to fuel and shelter. The cultivation of coconut trees also happens to be one of the most sustainable practices on earth.

          

If you look closely at a cross section of the coconut fruit you can see that it has five layers. The outside skin of a young fruit is green, moist and easy to cut open. When the coconut has matured, the skin turns brown and becomes hard and dry. Between the outer skin and the internal shell is the husk. In its natural form, the husk makes a great pot for growing plants in, but it can also be dried and chopped into coco husk chips or peat. The chips are a great alternative to soil for the potting and growing of greenhouse-produced plants and flowers such as orchids. Coconut husk decomposes very quickly and enriches the soil. It also dries quickly, helping to avoid any waterlogging of plants, it balances mineral requirements, maintains good plant temperatures and pH value, helps to reduce fungal growth and is a 100% natural, low cost, ecofriendly material.

          

Coir, or coconut fibre, is a natural elastic fibre that can be extracted from the husk. It is used in products such as floor mats, brushes and mattresses. Brown coir, made from mature coconuts, is also used for upholstery padding, sacking and horticultural purposes. White coir, harvested from unripe coconuts, is used for making finer brushes, string, rope and fishing nets as it has more elasticity. Let’s investigate the many uses of this most versatile tree.The coir fibre is relatively waterproof, and is one of the few natural fibres resistant to damage by salt water, making it highly desirable on an island location such as Samui.

          

The husk and shell combined have even more uses. You can buff your floor with it, burn it to deter mosquitos and make it into charcoal which can be used as fuel or to make activated charcoal, a very clever and natural medicine that can absorb toxins in the body.

          

The internal shell is very hard and can be made into bowls, utensils and even musical instruments or handicraft products such as the lampshades you might find in abundance at Samui’s walking street markets. When finely ground, the shell can be used in beauty products as an exfoliant for promoting super smooth and healthy skin.

          

Immediately inside the shell, you will find the coconut meat, which as most of us know is used in sweets, cakes, cookies, pies and desserts.

          

In the fresh young green coconuts, the meat is soft or even jelly-like and is easy to extract from the shell. In more mature coconuts, the meat is much harder and quite difficult to remove. The meat is used to produce desiccated coconut, or coconut flour (a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour) for cooking purposes. Coconut milk can be extracted from the meat and is used in many Thai dishes. Think of Thai curries and many desserts.

          

When dried the coconut meat is called copra, and this is where coconut oil is drawn from. This is a superb oil for cooking as it doesn’t break down easily at high temperatures like some other oils, and it has amazing nutritional properties. It is great for frying, baking and practically any other cooking use including making chocolate. Good quality coconut oil has many health and beauty uses. It is commonly used as a massage oil, and is said to aid weight loss,Let’s investigate the many uses of this most versatile tree. digestion and hormone irregularities, insomnia, acne, allergies, psoriasis and eczema and much more. You can use it to make toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, skin and hair moisturiser, it even works as a low-level factor four suntan lotion. Polish your wooden furniture with it or lubricate hinges, pulleys and sliding mechanisms. Always check the grade and quality of coconut oil before buying. The best for ingesting is organic and cold pressed, keeping it in its natural state. Remember that it is a liquid at temperatures above 24 degrees Celsius, but solidifies below that. If you are taking it to a cooler climate, try and buy it in a wide opening container! After all this extraction, anything left over from the copra can be used for animal feed, as it is still high in protein, sugar, and vitamins.

          

At the very centre of a coconut is the much-prized coconut water. Sought after for its electrolyte properties, it’s a refreshing drink and especially good in hot climates such as Samui, or as an after sports drink to naturally replace all the minerals lost in your sweat. The coconut is truly a miracle fruit, but it isn’t the only part of the coconut tree that is of use. A highly nutrient-rich and inherently sweet tasting sap can be tapped from the coconut tree blossoms. Freshly gathered tree sap contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals and amino acids and is used to produce a multitude of delicious products including coconut wine, vinegar, syrup and sugar. The most remarkable thing about tapping a coconut tree is that once tapped, the sap flows continuously for the next 20 years.

          

The leaves or fronds can be made into brooms, baskets, mats, roofing thatch, kindling for fires or barbeques and even cooking skewers. The trunk is used as building timber and for making furniture or even canoes (in Hawaii). And going below ground, you find the roots of the mighty coconut tree. They are used to make dye, mouthwash and medicine for diarrhoea and dysentery. A frayed piece of root can even be used as a toothbrush!

          

And lastly, just when you think there cannot be any more of the tree, consider the heart of palm. This is a vegetable harvested from the inner core, where the green leaves start to bud from the trunk. Under the woody palm leaf stem, is a soft white centre known as the heart. They are considered a rare delicacy, as harvesting the buds of wild palm trees will kill them. Hearts of palm are normally eaten in salads, sometimes called ‘millionaire’s salad’ for obvious reasons!

          

Still crazy or even crazier about coconuts now? You certainly should be. They are truly one of nature’s finest accomplishments.

          

 Karan Ladd


 


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