I’ve Got a Loverly Bunch

In my experience, on certain islands in the Caribbean, when you go to visit someone on a hot afternoon, instead of giving you a cold beer for refreshment they give you a warm coconut.

The family is usually sitting outside their small bungalow working on something or other. The visitor comes around the side of the house calling “afta-NOON” along with the last name of their host. Before the visitor has ambled his way slowly around to the back of the house (because nobody walks fast), the man of the house appears with a large machete and an armload of tender coconuts.

The family nods at the visitors and pauses in their work. The visitors nod at the family and accepts a coconut from their host. He has deftly drilled two small holes in the coconut from which the visitors are now obligated to drink the coconut water (technically known as “liquid endosperm”). The coconuts are passed around among the assembled group until they’re relatively dry.

Then the host hacks each coconut in half so swiftly and cleanly with that giant machete, that it makes the back of your neck tingle. The host slices small wedges from the outer green skin of the coconut (the exocarp) and hands everyone half a coconut. The wedges are used as spoons from which the visitor is now obligated to eat the coconut jelly (aka “endosperm”). 

The endosperm is the stuff that later turns hard and crusty so people can grate it and use it to spoil perfectly good baked goods and other confections.

I was never quite sure if this Passing of the Coconut ritual was actually supposed to be a welcoming gesture or if it was meant to discourage visitors. Because, while it’s an interesting novelty to eat a coconut like this once; once is really more than enough.

None of this stuff has any flavour to speak of. It looks very much like that for which it is named and boasts a rather gaggy texture. However, it’s impossible to refuse to take part in this ritual or say you’ve already visited 4 other people that day and are full up with endosperm.

On the up side, coconuts are very nutritious and have been so revered for their nutritious and healing properties by cultures all over the world that the coconut tree is nicknamed the Tree of Life. Every bit of the coconut tree is used and usable from its roots to its trunk to its bark to its leaves to its seed.

In traditional medicine around the world, coconut is used to treat a wide variety of medical problems including; syphilis, tuberculosis, asthma, typhoid, bleeding gums and even dropsy! Modern medicine, likewise, has a long list of the beneficial properties of coconut and coconut oil, in particular.

Still, my favourite uses of the coconut is the coconut bra.

 And coconut monkeys.

 

Have you ever wondered why coconuts are called coconuts (Cocos nucifera) when they clearly contain no delicious coco? Well, it’s because “coquo” means “monkey face” in Portuguese. Portuguese explorers named them this because of the indentations on the shells that make them look like monkeys — though not like any monkeys I would like to meet. 

Some interesting coconut facts: 

  • Coconut oil was the world’s leading vegetable oil until soybean oil took over in the 1960s.
  • There are more than 20 billion coconuts produced each year.
  • Coconut juice or coconut water is the liquid inside a coconut. Coconut milk is produced by steeping grated coconut in hot water then straining; coconut cream is coconut milk cooked down until it thickens, or grated coconut steeped in hot milk instead of water.
  • Falling coconuts kill 150 people every year – 10 times the number of people killed by sharks.

Many songs have been written about coconuts including:

  • I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (written by Fred Heatherton)
  • Coconut Woman – Harry Bellafonte
  • Coconut Rum – Ron Bertrand
  • Coconut Skins – Damien Rice; and,
  • Does anyone remember Harry Nilsson’s Coconut song (1971)? Have you ever wondered what “put the lime in the coconut” means? There’s been a great deal of speculation on this over the decades.
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21 responses to “I’ve Got a Loverly Bunch

  1. I found a coconut on the ground in either Florida or The Dominican Republic when I was a kid and kept it for several years. One day it went all funky and I threw it away. I guess I thought of it as a piece of wood instead of a piece of food. I did always think it looked like a face. I probably put doll hats on it.

  2. This…in my opinion, is the BEST coconut-related blog post….ever!

    Another bit of trivia (so I’ve heard). Is that you couldn’t survive on drinking coconut juice…because it’s a laxative and you’d end up dehydrated.

    (Dunno if that’s true…maybe someone of you coconut experts out there can confirm this for me).

  3. I’m really jamming to that Harry Chapin song. I don’t recall ever hearing it before, but it’s quite catchy.

    I was never a fan of dried coconut. Mounds Bars? Yuch! But I do like coconut frozen bars (popsicle). I went to an Asian market the other week, and they were selling canned coconut juice. It was such a novelty to me that I had to get one. It wasn’t half bad, but those flakes of coconut floating in it really threw me off, so I only finished about half the can.

  4. hate dried coconut. love anything cooked in coconut milk. hmmm, green curry…

    i have to agree with the friar that this is the best coconut relatred blog post ever, even if i haven’t read any other coconut realted blog posts.

    i’ll be singing “i’ve got a loverly bunch of coconuts” for the rest of the day. thanks for that!

    can’t believe skyetrueheart had never the harry chapin song. it was a stapple in my house growing up. i guess that sort of says something, does it?

  5. Actually, coconut water is almost like natural isotonic water so it is good and thirst quenching. As for the coconut flesh, the young coconut has an almost jelly like consistency I love it..

  6. Harry Chapin’s Coconut song is one of those that I’ve been listening to compulsively the last few weeks. Maybe you caught some of that from me psychically at the breakfast.

    – RG>

  7. Geewits – I can’t believe it was years before that coconut got funky. That’s a little scary and pretty amazing, too.

    Friar – How many coconut blog posts have you read? And yes, coconut water IS a laxative.

    Skye- Harry Nilsson, not Chapin. Totally different kind of weird. It’s a fun song isn’t it?

    Jazz – I knew they made those things for somebody. Blech!

    Smothermother – Harry Nilsson, not Chapin. You played this song in your house growing up? That’s unusual. It’s supposed to be cocaine related isn’t it? Or something bizarre like that.

    Trashee – I’ll take that Pulitzer. Thanks. And I think the astro squirrels have the right idea about what to do with coconuts – much better than that whole eating thing.

    LGS – Yes, I am familiar with the consistency (gag). Did you check out the squirrel link in Trashee’s comment above?

    Glen – Ya! Go Soy!!

    Grouchy – Harry NILSSON! Sheesh. How could three people get that wrong? If Harry Chapin ever did a coconut song, I haven’t heard it. Very odd – as is our psychic connection.

  8. SAW- There are actually some discrepancies on the origins of the word coconut. Some sources say that a “coco” is actually more of a demon/witch type monkey.

    Grouchy – Ya, Chapin was more into putting cats into cradles than limes into coconuts.

    Skye – Grouchy is good at that.

    Linda – Who indeed.

    Violetsky – Ha ha ha

  9. Yep, it played in my house and my paretns were completely oblivious to the supposed true meaning. they are the straightest people you will ever meet. not sure how i happened!

  10. All hail XUP, the Queen of Blogging Randomness!

    I love coconut… DH and I buy them whole from the grocery store and gobble them up. We’ve recently bought two in a row that went mouldy on us before we could eat them… that’s a first. A bad shipment, or is that sort of thing prone to happen?

    You can get the young coconuts at T&T… loads of water in them, and that creepy spermy stuff. DH and I bought one thinking we’d like it since we love mature coconuts so much, but neither of us could gag the jelly down.

  11. Susan – See? Did you drink the water, too? It’s a laxative you know. Can you imagine being handed one of those jelly-filled things 3 or 4 times a day for like 3 weeks straight? You’d never want to hear the word coconut again. (Thanks for the coronation btw)