Cocoanut -

The cocoanut palm is a native of the islands which dot the Southern Pacific, but it is now widely grown in many other tropical parts of the globe, particularly in the West Indies, Ceylon and parts of India.

It flourishes best in the sandy soil along the sea-shore and frequently attains to the height of one hundred feet - a long straight slender trunk, without either branch or leaf - perpendicular to the sky or leaning to one side or the other according to the mercies of the wind in its youth - with a crown of palm leaves for its head. The nuts hang downward near the trunk from the under-part of the crown - the yield averaging from fifty to one hundred nuts a year.

The tree grows wild without care, but for commercial purposes it is raised in plantations or "groves."

The cocoanut, as the average person sees it, is a large woody-looking nut, three or four inches in diameter, the shell enclosing an inside covering of half an inch or more of white meat, and holding a small quantity of cocoanut milk.

On the tree the nut is enclosed in a husk, two or three inches in thickness, according to the stage of ripeness, and a green outside skin. When the nut is first formed inside the husk the shell is thin, and in place of the firm white meat is a thin coating of a white, creamy substance - which you eat with a spoon and find delicious - and a large quantity, two glasses or more, of sweetish water with a mild delicate cocoanut flavor. As ripening continues, the outside skin takes on a brownish appearance, the husk shrinks and becomes more and more fibrous, the shell of the nut inside becomes harder and the creamy substance and the water inside the shell become the firm white meat and the smaller quantity of milk that constitute the cocoanut of general sale. The outside husk is removed before shipment here, partly to save space in packing, but also because it is easier to ascertain the condition of the nuts - any damaged or cracked specimens are thrown out as they would either dry up or become rancid in transportation. The "eyes" and "nose" in the "face" of the cocoanut - the delicate spots in the shell - are often tarred over to prevent the entrance of air.

In places where they are grown, "green" cocoanuts are generally preferred for eating raw, the "cream" and water being sought - the meat of the ripe cocoanuts being principally used for cooking, confectionery, etc. - and quite a few green cocoanuts are brought here during the year for special stores and individuals. They are gathered by natives who climb up, or rather walk up, the trunks - with the aid of a rope in the case of the taller palms.

Ripe cocoanuts are gathered after they have fallen of their own accord - fortunately for the native population they rarely fall except at night when the "seal" is loosened by the heavy dew.

The quantity of ripe cocoanuts sold in this country to be eaten raw is considerable, but the most important traffic is in the meat itself - dried, shredded, macerated, etc., for cooking, confectionery, etc. - and in the oil produced from it.

The greater part of the cocoanut meat utilized here is made in this country from whole nuts, 95,000,000 being imported during 1910; but large quantities, nearly 27,000,000 pounds during 1910, are imported ready dried, coming principally via San Francisco from the Philippine Islands, the East Indies and the Islands of the South Pacific. It is commercially known as "copra."

cocoanut oil - in temperate climates, a soft white fat - is obtained by pressing either the fresh meat or the dried copra, the former being the choicer. It is imported in large quantities - principally from Ceylon and the East Indies (both direct and via England), in addition to that manufactured here, for use in cooking oil preparations, in the manufacture of soap, etc. There is an increasing consumption of cocoanut "butters" prepared from cocoanut oil, especially in tropical countries, as it stands greater heat than dairy butter and is acceptable to many palates. Marseilles, France, is the center of the industry.

The value of the cocoanut palm to the natives where it flourishes can scarcely be exaggerated. There is literal truth in the native proverb to the effect that "He who plants a cocoanut-tree plants vessels and clothing, food and drink, a habitation for himself and a heritage for his children."

He who would do so could build himself a home of "porcupine wood," which is procured from the trunk of the tree and is very durable. Leaf-stalk rafters are to his hand, and his house is readily completed with a picturesque roof of thatched leaves. He can cover his floor with matting made from the coir (the fiber which is about the nut), and the same fiber will supply him with clothing, cordage and fishing lines. He can make brooms and brushes of the ribs of the leaves, and can utilize the old leaves in making buckets. The house completed, it can be decorated with fans and with cups artistically carved from the nuts. The palm furnishes transportation also, for the sea-going canoe of the South Sea Islander is made of rough pliable planks of cocoanut-wood, grooved to fit and stitched together with cocoanut-coir twine.

As regards food, he can sustain life on the monotonous but dainty fare provided by the green and ripe nuts. The latter will give him also cocoanut-oil in which he can fry any other food he may obtain, and from which he can manufacture soap and candles. The terminal bud may further be cooked like cabbage, and both temperance and intoxicating beverages may be prepared from the sap and fruit.

"Tuba," a beverage highly prized and extensively consumed by the natives, is the sap of the flowering fruit-bearing stalks. As its extraction destroys the nut-bearing capacity, it is generally confined to trees devoted exclusively to the purpose. The fermented juice is intoxicating and yields on distillation a spirituous liquor known as "Coco wine."

Arround Cocoanut in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

Cocoa Shellshome

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