One of my favourite guilty pleasures in life is having a Bounty chocolate bar (yummy! says my wife) - why you ask - it's because of the coconut. Soon after relocating to South East Asia I got to explore more about coconuts and the tropical tree itself.
The term coconut can refer to many things: the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which botanically is a drupe, not a nut.
Coconuts are very distinct from other fruits due to the large quantity of "water" found within them. The water found in young coconuts is the most nutritious of all the fruits.
Coconuts are known for their great versatility and can be used for many purposes ranging from food to cosmetics. In addition, they also make up the regular diets of many people in the tropics and subtropics.
When coconuts are dried, their flesh can be used to produce oil and milk for cooking and frying as well as in soaps and cosmetics. Dried husks and leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating.
The sap extracted from the coconut flower is known as palm nectar or neera. Neera nectar is sweet, clear in colour and high in nutritional value. When it's left to ferment on its own, it becomes palm wine, which is then distilled to produce Arrack, also spelt Arak, an alcoholic specialty of South East Asia.
The sap can be also reduced by boiling to create sweet syrup or reduced further to yield palm sugar.
The tip of the buds of fully grown coconut plants are edible, and are known as “palm cabbage” or heart of palm. They are considered a rare delicacy, and are eaten in salads, sometimes called the “millionaire’s salad”.
Coconuts are rich in lauric acid, which is known for being antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal, and boosts the immune system. In the food and fragrance industries, the molecule which imparts the distinctive coconut scent is known as õ-decalactone.
When I lived in Bali, the team at Akademi shared with me one of their cocktail recipes:
60ml Arak and Vodka Salak
5ml Mangosteen bitters
20ml Mesui Syrup
20ml Coconut Juice
10 leaves of Kemangi Basil
3 big lemon wedges
Shake well and serve.