World Coconut Day

Known as the Tree of Life due to its incredible value to man and the large number of products and byproducts that can be created by it, the coconut is the edible fruit of the coconut palm, a tree of the palm family. Coconuts probably originated somewhere in Indo-Malaya and are one of the most important crops of the tropics. The coconut flesh is high in fat and can be dried or eaten fresh or processed into coconut milk or coconut oil. The liquid of the nut, known as coconut water, is used in beverages. A single coconut palm may yield 100 coconuts annually, and each fruit requires a year to fully ripen. Mature coconuts have a thick fibrous husk surrounding the familiar single-seeded nut and a hard shell encloses the insignificant embryo with its abundant endosperm, composed of both meat and liquid. Coconut fruits float readily and have been dispersed widely by ocean currents and by humans throughout the tropics. A coconut palm itself can live as long as 100 hundred years, but her productive period is around 25 years. As the coconut develops the coconut palm naturally filters water through its many fibres, purifying it as it travels to be stored inside the sterile coconut.

Besides the edible kernels and the drink obtained from green nuts, the harvested coconut also yields copra, the dried extracted kernel, or meat, from which coconut oil, a major vegetable oil, is expressed. The meat may also be grated and mixed with water to make coconut milk, which is used in cooking and as a substitute for cow’s milk. The oil which is generated from the coconut is edible, can also be applied on the skin and contains various antifungal, antiviral, antioxidants and antibacterial elements. The dry husk yields coir, a fibre highly resistant to salt water and used in the manufacture of ropes, mats, baskets, brushes, and brooms.

In Indian culture, specifically Hinduism, the coconut is referred to as a divine or God’s fruit and is one of the most important parts of rituals and customs because it represents the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the creator, protector and destroyer. The three dots in the coconut symbolises the three eyes of Lord Shiva with another belief system suggesting that the kernel symbolises Devi Parvati, the water signifies Ganga, and the brown shell represents Lord Kartikeya. The coconut is also compared to a human head. The fibre is the hair, the shell is the skull, the water is blood, and the flesh represents the brain. Therefore, by offering a coconut, a devotee surrenders themselves or their mind and bows before the Supreme Power. It is also said that the coconut shell represents ego, the soft pulpy part is the human heart, and the water symbolises purity. Therefore, a devotee can experience God’s grace only when he breaks their ego and surrenders before the Almighty with a pure heart. Thus, it reminds us that ego stops us from embracing the goodness all around us. Therefore, it inspires us to get rid of ignorance and embrace knowledge or God.

To showcase this incredible fruit, World Coconut Day is celebrated every year today to highlight and raise awareness about the importance and benefits of coconut. The day began in 2009 when the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community or the APCC, in collaboration with UN-ESCAP or the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific was founded. The APCC is an intergovernmental organisation that supervises and facilitates Asia-Pacific states that produce coconuts. Headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia, all major coconut-growing countries are members of APCC. World Coconut Day is organised to highlight APCC’s policies and promote this tropical fruit. So today, drink coconut water, make something out of coconut, maybe a coconut barfi or just eat the flesh of the coconut to celebrate this incredible fruit.

Recipes: Radish Chutney

The other day I wanted to make some coconut chutney to go with our dinner of dosai, but realised at the last minute that I didn’t have enough coconut to make the chutney. I dug through my fridge and saw a couple of radishes which I used to make this yummy chutney. When the children ate the chutney, they could not believe that it had radishes in it. This is a very simple recipe which hardly takes 10 minutes to make from start to end.

Radish Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized radishes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp broken urad dal
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 small lime sized piece of tamarind
  • 2 tsp chopped coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a pan and when warm, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the urad dal, red chillies and sesame seeds.
  • Once the urad dal becomes slightly brown and the red chillies start to darken, add the chopped radish, tamarind and some salt and cook until the radishes are cooked and slightly opaque.
  • Take off from the fire and cool completely.
  • In a mixer, blend together the fried ingredients, coconut and coriander leaves to a smooth paste. Add salt to taste and serve with idlis, dosai or even chapati. This goes very well as a spread for bread too.

Recipes: Ginger Coconut Chutney

This Chutney came about completely serendipitously! I started off making something else, felt it was not going to be enough, added some coconut and the end result was this yummy Chutney.

Ginger Coconut Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut, grated
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • A small lime-sized ball of tamarind
  • 3-4 dried red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • In a pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, red chillies, ginger and tamarind and stir for a few minutes.
  • Now add the onions and sauté till the onions turn translucent.
  • Switch off the flame and let this cool down.
  • Once cool, blend it together with the coconut, adding water as necessary and make it into a fine paste.
  • Season with salt and serve with any Indian bread like dosas, idlis, rotis. It even goes well with breads.