“The Coconut is Not a Nut” Story

I don’t know if you have heard Ryan Cayabyab’s song “Da Coconut Nut“. It talks about the coconut not being a nut. The coconut is not a nut, it’s a fruit, although there has been lengthy discussions on the issue. But it’s not just a fruit, it’s an amazing fruit. I discovered its amazing properties over time, especially in the Philippines where it kept appearing in different forms and for various uses.

When I celebrated a birthday in the Philippines, we had adobo (a stewed meat dish with coconut milk) served in a coconut shell. I was very moved by the detail. There were many craft items made from coconut shell. I found the native craft items creative and charming. Apart from being used as ornaments and for serving food, the coconut had other more practical uses. Coconut husks were used to polish wooden floors.

There is the coconut broom which is used for sweeping in many Asian countries. It’s made of coconut leaf sticks. It’s good for sweeping wet floors and corners of rooms. I once heard a Eurasian lady, who was writing a cook book, say that she had a recipe for fruit cake that required the use of a coconut broom. It was used to stir the cake batter. I suppose it is like using a wooden spoon.

I would agree with Ryan Cayabyab’s song that the coconut is not a nut, because it has juice and flesh in it, but the botanists would have more to say about it. From the coconut, we get coconut milk and coconut oil. Yesterday, a friend WhatAapped me to tell me that she applied coconut oil to her rashes and they disappeared. But since we don’t know the scientific reason for it, it is not something that we would recommend. She is reading my favourite book entitled The Gift of Pain (originally The Gift Nobody Wants) by Dr Paul Brand, in which he mentioned coconut water (which is usually sterile) being given intravenously to soldiers, who were dehydrated during the Second World War, due to a shortage of saline solution. I was surprised to find that a lot of research has since been done on coconut juice and its properties.

On one of my trips to India, a friend had surgery, and since I was free at the weekend, I kept her company in hospital. I noticed that she was given a glass of liquid to drink soon after surgery. I was curious because it looked a bit unusual. It was coconut water! I don’t know if it is common practice anywhere else to drink coconut water after surgery. I had only taken coconut water at the beach on holiday when I was growing up. It was a treat to have a whole coconut to myself.

Some years ago, I went to Nakorn Nayok, a small province in Thailand, with a group friends and students to teach English at a village school for a week. We were welcomed by the principal with a sack of coconuts. A whole big sack. She smiled and told us that we could enjoy coconut juice with our meal every evening. The question was: “How to get the juice out of the coconut?” The answer was: “With a chopper, course.” Being city folks from several countries and unaccustomed farm work, it was a challenge for all of us. But I was the “lucky one” who got the honour of chopping coconuts every evening. The same friend who used the coconut oil on her rashes donated S$150 to fund a lunch treat for 100 village school children. The children had generous helpings of chicken rice and free flow of coconut ice cream from what looked like an oil drum (without the oil) with ice inside to keep the ice cream tubs cold. It was quite a sight to see the children running back to the drum for more helpings. You could say, “It was cool”.

The coconut might appear to be a humble fruit, but it has a song written about it, it has many uses, it has saved lives, and it has made many people happy. And best of all, the coconut doesn’t seem to mind being called a nut!

By Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 7 February 2021

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