The Coconut Telegraph
By Jan Critchley
"It is when the coconuts are green that the water is at its best"
Living here in the BVI, we very much take the humble coconut for granted, as they are literally everywhere – just look out of your window and you are almost guaranteed to see one. The coconut palm provides us with much needed shade on our beaches, lines our streets and generally does a great deal to enhance our already beautiful island. However, you may be surprised to learn that the coconut (Cocus nucifera) has many diverse uses. It adds a delicious sweet and nutty flavor to some of your favorite dishes; it can be made into woven mats, biofuel, soap and cosmetics, while coconut water has health giving properties – it makes you wonder, is there anything that this versatile fruit cannot become?
For example, the coconut is capable of steering its way through the US Postal Service and each year some 3,000 coconut postcards are sent from Hawaii's Hoolehua post office across the world. It is a surprisingly simple process, just write the address on the surface, add postage stamps and voila – off it goes to the recipient who I'm sure appreciates this edible hairy mail item a great deal more than the regular "Wish You Were Here" postcard!
Coconuts, which are packed with electrolyes and coconut water, have been flying off the supermarket shelves due to its nutritional value. It is when the coconuts are green that the water is at its best; in addition the "meat" in a green coconut is softer and more gelatinous than in a mature coconut. When the fruit has ripened and the outer husk has turned brown a few months later, it will fall from the palm of its own accord. At that time, the white, fleshy "meat" has thickened and hardened, while the coconut water has become somewhat bitter.
The history of the coconut is equally fascinating. The modern coconut palm probably evolved about 11 million years ago, perhaps in the South Pacific. These fruit bearing palms are native to Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia, and are now also prolific in South America, India, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Florida and, of course, the Caribbean. The fruit also plays an important role in Indian rituals and mythology, for it resembles a human head with three marks on its shell like eyes and a mouth, and fiber like hair!
So, in a nutshell, the coconut is a diverse and versatile fruit that is as rich in nutrients as it is in history - and it likes to travel (specimens have been collected from the sea as far north as Norway). But there is one thing for sure, for me there is nothing quite like cracking a newly fallen coconut on the beach and eating it there and then before making a dash for a quick dip in the crystal blue waters of the BVI.