So What is Coconut Oil?

As I had previously said in my 1st post, I love coconut oil.  The funny thing is I really had not heard about coconut oil until about 2 years ago.  So what is coconut oil?  Obviously it is oil derived from coconuts but what exactly is it?

Coconut OilSo yeah we know that coconuts cocos nucifera are a fruit that come a palm tree.  We know that the coconut has several layers that make the coconut.  The inner most layer is the edible part.  That is where the coconut oil comes from.  So what is coconut oil?  Coconut oil is an oil known for being high in saturated fats.  Although saturated fat has been highly reported to be terrible for you,  it is not really that simple.  There are actually different kinds of saturated fats.  The kind in coconut oil (specifically virgin coconut oil) is called medium chain triglycerides also known as MCT.  It is said that these fats are capable of treating certain food absorption disorders liver disease or gastrectomy.  However, most research on the effects of medium chain triglycerides and how they effect the body  have been considered preliminary stages.

As I had said earlier some coconut oil is referred to as “virgin” coconut oil.  This basically means that the oil has not been processed.  By processed I mean that the oil has not been bleached or refined.  Another term you have probably heard associated with coconut oil is “cold pressed”  It really all depends on the company who make that specific oil and how they went about extracting it (See above video on a great example of how to extract coconut oil).  When an oil has been cold pressed is generally means that the oil was pressed out of the source without using a type of heat source.  Mainly the oil was pressed by some mechanical method.

There are plenty of uses for coconut oil which I will go into later while also detailing some of my own personal experiences with coconut oil.  Til next time!



A Coconut’s Growth Stages

A coconut’s growth stages from a scientific point of view can be quite fascinating.  Of course it doesn’t start with the coconut.  It starts with the palm tree that the coconut came from.  In fact it starts even earlier if we get into the growth stages of a coconut palm tree.  We’ll save that subject for another time.  For now let’s start with the palm tree.

A standard coconut palm is said to produce as much as 50 coconuts per year.  Each of these coconuts require roughly the same amount of time to grow.  From there it is important to know what growth stage a coconut has reached so you know when best to harvest it.

Stage One:  During the early stages, flowers start to form around the palm leaves of the coconut palm tree.  These flowers are where the nut forms and eventually grows into a bright green fruit.  Often these fruits will start to fall off from the tree due to their immaturity.  For the coconuts that manage to hang on, they will continue to grow.  At this growth stage of the coconut, the liquid stored inside can be drained.  Commonly referred to as coconut water, a large coconut even in an immature state can hold as much as one liter inside.  In my personal experience with green coconuts, the average amount of liquid I have extracted was around 8 to 10 ounces.

Coconuts Off Palm TreeStage Two: This is the point where the coconut begins to ripen.  The coconut’s lovely green color starts to turn brown.  At this point, if you decide to cut into the coconut you may get access to incredibly soft meat.  Due to the early ripening stages, the coconut meat consist of very thin white layer. While the texture of the meat is somewhat between being gel like and like a hard boiled egg, many people would find it quite delicious.  For some the soft meat combined with the liquid inside is referred to as coconut milk.

Stage Three: At this point if the coconut still has a firm grasp of the tree it’s on it will continue to ripen.  The outside part of the of the coconut also known as the Exocarp is becoming harder.  The coconut meat on the inside begins to thicken and becomes harder as well.  The hardened gel or meat can be removed from the shell and given many uses.  The meat could be dried up and shredded and used as flakes to go on various types on meals.  If the shell is simply split and left to be dried into the sun, the dried meat now becomes “copra” .  This copra can be converted into coconut oil which we will soon learn has various uses.

Stage Four:  This is the final growth stage of the coconut.  At this point the coconut was never harvested and was given permission to fully ripen on the tree it came from.  While completing its maturity process the coconut begins to germinate.  The germination process is the final stage of the coconut before the cycle starts over again.  The coconut meat and liquid are fully absorbed at this point.  If cracked open a white sponge feeling ball has formed within the coconut.  Though some may be tempted to taste test this coconut ball it is not recommended as depending on how long the coconut has been germinated the ball may be poisonous.

How to Open a Coconut

how to open a coconutIf you ask five different people how to open a coconut you just my get five different answers.  One of the answers would probably be “I don’t know”.  While opening a coconut can be somewhat fun,  it can also be quite difficult depending on how you choose to do it.

As you know within the shell of the coconut is the meat if further inside is the water.  Depending on how you open the coconut things can get a bit messy.  To prevent this from happening some people would choose to drain the coconut first.  In order to do this, first you would want to place the coconut on a flat and solid surface.  A heavy duty cutting board would be ideal.

how to open coconutNext you will require a tool specifically made for cutting and drilling into coconuts.  If you do not have this tool a phillips screwdriver works just as well. (For those who have access to a screw gun, this a a great tool as well to assist in opening a coconut.)  Coconuts have a dark spot called the “soft eye”.  The term “black hole” makes a bit more sense to me.  The problem is the coconut actually has several holes and only one of them is the “soft eye”.  You will need to puncture it with your sharp tool or screwdriver or a screw gun to find out which hole has a weak spot.

Once that eye is fully punctured you can now drain the fluid into a bowl.  You could also start drinking the coconut water immediately as it is delicious and nutritious.  Now we can finally open the coconut without making a wet mess.  Some people choose to skip this process and just go straight to tapping it open which is works as long as you have a big bowl in front of you to catch the juice.  You will need a heavy knife with a blunt edge.  Carefully hold the coconut in the palm of your hand over a sink or large bowl.  Firmly tap the mid point of the coconut while rotating it in your hand.  Continue to tap and rotate until coconut splits into two halves.  You now have access to the coconut meat.

This type of process tends to be done specifically for a brown coconut as they have a harder shell then the green coconuts.  We will discutting open coconutscuss the difference between them another time.  Next let’s get into how to open a green coconut.  As I said before there are quite a few options and it all depends on who you ask.  The preferred way to open a coconut that is green is with a cleaver.  You will want to chop it open from the side that does not have the stem.  As you continue to chop you will eventually get to the shell and cut that open so you can drain the water or drink from the coconut.

Worst case scenario? If for some reason you are stranded on an island filled with coconut trees but you have no tools,  you can always throw the coconut to the hardest surface you can find.  This will also open the coconut.  For more information on how to open a coconut, check out the videos posted!

What are Coconuts?

So…what are coconuts?  The funny thing about the term “coconut” is there is no scientific name for it.  In fact, the scientific term Cocos nucifera stands for the coconut tree or coconut palm.  One interesting debate is whether the coconut is a fruit or nut.  You could understand why most people would consider it a nut given its name and hard shell.  The botanical term for a coconut is a drupe.  A drupe is an indehiscent fruit or stone fruit that consists of several layers. There’s the Exocarp which is the skin and outer most layer.  The Mesocarp is flesh of the coconut and is also the thickest layer.  It surrounds the shell.  Finally there is the Endocarp which is the inner most layer.  Peaches and mangoes are also drupes that have layers similar to that of a coconut.  The difference of course is that the mesocarp of the peach and mango is edible while the coconut mesocarp is a dry husk.

drupe image
A drupe consists of two layers surrounding the shell of a hardened seed.

Based off the scientific term Cocos nucifera, coconuts come from trees.  Specifically they come from palm trees.  They say a coconut palm can live up to 100 years and grow up to 98 feet in height.  Along with these tall coconut trees, there are smaller ones known as dwarfs which do not produce as much coconuts.   There is no exact amount of coconuts a coconut tree can produce.  This all depends on the fertility of the land the tree has been planted on.  A coconut palm tree growing on premium fertile soil could produce as much as 75 coconuts depending on it’s height.  This however is a rarity as the average tree tends to produce no more then 30 coconuts.

what are coconut palm trees
Cocos nucifera is the scientific term for coconut palm tree.

Coconut trees  grow in rain forests, tropical and subtropical areas.  The best conditions for growth are highly warm and humid with powerful amount of sunlight.  The low 80’s Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for optimal growth.  The tree can continue to grow in the low 70’s temperature however it would be at a much slower rate with the tree possibly becoming aggravated.  These type a temperatures still require the palm tree to be attended to.  In order to grow without any care, the coconut tree would require a daily temperature in the mid 50’s Fahrenheit with a rainfall of at least 1000 millimeters per year.  Currently coconuts are grown in 80 to 90 countries worldwide.  In 2013 the top 5 coconut producers were Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil and Sri Lanka.

For more information on what are coconuts, click here.