Many Uses of the Coconut Tree
As eloquently spoken by the gentleman in the video above, the coconut tree is so much more to the Fijian people than the standard definition given in most online reference websites, it is the closest symbol and connection to the soul of mother earth.
The coconut tree as a whole gives us energy and life when we drink its fresh water from the coconut, provides us with medicine from its roots to heal our ailments, with the tree trunk and leaves we are able to create shelter, and watercraft and make our traditional clothing used for ceremonial events, with the raw coconut husk we are able to plant new seedlings to provide nutrition to our families in the future and forge utensils.
The coconut tree is so highly respected in the Fijian culture and has helped to sustain the Fijian way of life for centuries, with this intimate connection, the Fijians are not wasteful, taking only what they need, as the tree gives every part of itself for the needs of others.
Types of Coconuts
|No.||Type||Mature Tree Size||No.||Type||Mature Tree Size|
|1||Malayan Red Dwarf||6 meters (20 feet)||7||Niu Yalewa|
|2||Malayan Yellow Dwarf||10-20 meters (30-60 feet)||8||Rennel Island Tall|
|3||Niu Leka Dwarf||10 meters (30 feet)||9||Rotuman Tall|
|4||Malayan Green Dwarf||10 meters (30 feet)||10||Fiji Tall||6-8 meters (20-25 feet)|
|5||Bu Drau||11||Rotuman Stripe|
|6||Magimagi Tall||12||Fiji Dwarf||8 meters (25 feet)|
What are the physical characteristics of a coconut?
How to husk a coconut?
Coconuts are an important part of Fijian Life, playing an integral cultural role in our cooking, and health, they are symbolic of prosperity and life across the islands. Most food markets and roadside stalls across Fiji have the different types of coconuts available displayed, with the highly skilled salesman able to crack, peel, and grate coconuts for you with a simple ask. Although this makes your life easier and you can appreciate the goodness of the fresh coconut instantly, the experience of knowing how to crack a coconut is a rewarding skill to acquire. very similar to the general well-known adage with a few alterations ‘Give a man a f
ish coconut, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to dehusk a fish coconut, and you feed him for a lifetime’. The following few steps will help you to acquire this very skill, so when you are on our shores and you spot that tantalizing mouth-watering fruit dangling from the palm tree you will without pause know what to do…
STEP 1 – Good or Bad Nut
A few telltale signs that will help you pick the good ‘nut’ from the bad ‘nut’, here is a quick cheat sheet of pointers —
- Look for lots of fresh fibers (lush almost damp) on the coconut, the dried-out older coconuts are smaller and have a darker brown coloration
- Clasp the coconut in your hands and feel the weight, the coconut should have a substantial weight, if it feels light in the hands in relation to its size, it’s probably dried up in the hot Fijian sun (Not Good).
- Check the outer shell of the coconut for any cracks or blemishes that could have let in the air potentially spoiling the coconut flesh (Not Good).
- Finally, the sloshing test, if the ‘nut’ has passed the first three observational tests (Lots of lush fibers, substantial weight, and no cracks), gently shake the coconut next to your ear, if you can hear the sound of the copious amounts of liquid gold being jostled against the inner lining of the shell, you have hit the jackpot, read on and discover how to tap into this rich reservoir.
Step 2 – Dehusking (cracking the outer shell)
- Preparation – Before you start reenacting the scene of Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Cast Away‘ where he is marooned in Fiji. (The full Coconut scene can be watched here), remove as much of the dried husk from the shell as possible, as this will dampen the blows.
- Collect a plastic bowl and sturdy knife from the kitchen this will be used to pry open the outer shell and collect the coconut water.
- Kneel down, take a firm grip on the coconut, and strike the ground, with several sharp blows around the equator of the shell (slowly rotate the coconut a few inches on every strike so you are uniformly weakening the coconut as a whole) The objective here is to apply enough force to crack the shell open a little, so you can pry the coconut apart with your knife.
- The two sounds you will hear are the sharp cracking sounds of you hitting the coconut onto the ground and secondly the distinctive DULL THUD, instantly telling you you have breached the outer shell.
- Find the area with the crack and give it a few short sharp taps to open the shell up slightly further
- Hold the coconut over the bowl, grab your knife and place it gently into the gap and twist to open the shell and empty out the coconut water.
- When you have done this a few times, it will become second nature to you and you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of this fruit where ever you are.
VIDEO from Nanuku on how to husk a coconut
How to scrape a coconut and create fresh coconut milk?
At first, this may seem a little awkward, but be persistent and you will soon see the benefits, the items you will need are… a plastic bowl, a coconut scrapper (which can be purchased at any good supermarket or local warehouse), a clean cloth preferable a cheesecloth and a comfortable seat.
- The coconut scraper (image top right) is normally attached to a large slab or slat of wood, enabling you to sit on the wooden slab and have the scraper between your legs (top left image).
- Place the large empty bowl at your feet directly below the scrapper
- Then begin scraping, scrap the shell a couple of times in one location, and then rotate, and stop when you reach the inner wall of the husk.
- The bowl is now filled with the meat of a neatly scraped coconut.
- Gather the coconut in a clean cheesecloth, pour in some warm water, gather the ends together, and squeeze, Voila! Coconut milk
VIDEO How to grate a coconut
Fiji’s National Dish: Kokoda
Kokoda is a traditional Fijian dish made with fresh, raw fish such as mahi-mahi or snapper that is marinated in a combination of coconut milk and citrus juices such as lemons and limes. Coconut milk is added in order to balance out the acid.
Fijian variety of ceviche is often garnished or combined with additional ingredients such as sea salt, minced chilis, finely sliced green onions, and coriander leaves.
- 4 White fish filets (Mahi-Mahi, Walu (a local reef fish) cod, or snapper)
- 3/4 Cup of fresh lime/lemon juice
- 2 Ripe tomatoes (diced)
- 1 Large red chili pepper
- 100 ml of fresh coconut cream
- 1 Large or 2 medium-sized onions (peeled and finely diced)
- 1 Green capsicum pepper
- Spring Onions (finely chopped)
- A few stems of coriander leaves (substitute: parsley)
- Black pepper
- Lime wedges and coconut shell to serve
- Chop the filleted fish into 1 cm cubes
- Cure the fish in the lemon juice in a ceramic or glass bowl and chill to marinate for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably covered with a wrap and refrigerated for eight hours or overnight until the fish is opaque (white in colour as if cooked). Stir occasionally. (Environmental tip – instead of using cling wrap, use a beeswax cover that can be reused again and again)
- Cut the chili and capsicum peppers into halves, then remove all the seeds and chop them finely
- Drain the fish and add the onion, chilis, tomato, spring onion, and coriander.
- Pour in the coconut cream.
- Give it a good thorough mix, to ensure the fish is flavored with all the ingredients.
- Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper
- Chill and serve by carefully spooning the delicious kokoda into a coconut shell, as illustrated in the picture above
- Simply delicious and a must-have on your travel across Fiji.