I think it was Shinnosuke who started it all. He had chosen to look at a book on coconuts during silent reading time. When it was his turn to share something he had found out about plants, he told us, ‘I thought that coconuts were just on the tree. But they can also make shampoo and soap, and the outside part can be used to make a house!’
There followed one of our discussions; this one about the things we already knew that could me made from coconut palms (as we found out the ‘coconut tree’ is properly called).
Something in what was said must have stuck with someone, because the very next day, a container of coconut cream powder and another of desiccated coconut appeared on my desk. After she had explained how each was used in Sri Lankan cooking, we were encouraged by Dhaluni to taste them.
The next day, Daniel brought a spoon to show us.
It had been made from two different parts of a coconut palm. The handle from the stem and the bowl part from the curved shell of the ‘seed’.
As interest was further sparked, we discovered that virtually every part of the coconut palm can be used in some way or another. We found out that the leaves can be woven…..
and used to make the roofs and walls of simple houses. That wood from the stem, as well as being used to make the handles of various pieces of cutlery, can also be fashioned into furniture, boats and the frames of houses.
And how about this. A young coconut is green. When the green layer is peeled away, it reveals a thick white fibrous layer underneath.
These fibres can also be used, dried, to make things like doormats and brushes such as this one that Sean brought to show us.
If a coconut is picked and opened while it is still ‘young’ the flesh inside the shell is soft and can be eaten with a spoon.
Or with the fingers!
If it is left to ‘mature’ then the shell gets very hard (as on this one which Johannes brought in)…..
and needs a hefty whack to open it up and so get at the dense almost crunchy ‘meat’ inside.
The ‘meat’ itself can be munched on its own, or used in all kinds of cooking, both savoury and sweet. Most of us loved the sticky gooey taste of a range of sweet ‘coconutty’ treats such as this one from the Philippines.
The flesh can also be ground up and used to make coconut ‘milk’ or ‘cream’.
Coconut oil (which can be extracted from the squashed ‘flesh’) is used for cooking and can also give a delicious coconut scent to soaps and shampoos.
I think that in a few short days, we successfully proved the fact mentioned above; that virtually every part of the coconut palm can be used. And I am sure that even so we haven’t yet exhausted all its possibilities!