Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coconut, the tree of life





Sunday morning Colleen and Charles brought us a bag of fresh coconuts. Of course I had to ask Charles to show me how to open them, and it was easier that I thought (just look at the pictures below). We didn't have any straws so I let the coconut water drip into a glass (getting about three full glasses for each coconut!). We all loved the coconut water, especially if we left the coconut in the fridge: fresh and chilled coconut water!




After drinking the water I got the boys to break the coconuts for me: Dad was good at breaking them, and Max at scraping out the flesh.





Charles and Colleen came for dinner, of course I made pasta, but I also made a variety of dishes with their coconuts. A tomato and coconut salad with cannellini beans, spring onions and olives, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt flakes. Coconut rice (just boil the rice with coconut pieces in it, fantastic!), coconut chocolates: I dipped slices of coconut in melted 72% dark chocolate, and also mixed freshly shredded coconut in the remaining chocolate to make choco-coco balls. I made a big tray of these but I forgot to take a photo, se here were the leftovers... and the fruit salad with local papaya, banana, and coconut, a little brown sugar, lemon juice and rum. This I made a few times actually, it was too good! Charles and Colleen couldn't believe how many things I made out of their coconuts, they said that usually the drink the juice and then give the rest to the pigs. They have plenty of coconut. But I guess that for me this was luxury!




So what is a typical dish with coconut in Niue? In the market we tried the local coconut porridge, a warm mixture made with coconut, arrow root and a little sugar. It was different, not bad but not even my breakfast of choice. I preferred coconut bread, which is sold in all the bakeries.







But the best experience for me was to learn how to open and eat coconut at different stages of maturity, so if one day I will be ever stranded on a desert island I will be able to survive... as long as there are coconuts around! On our plantation tour Tony firstly gave us a coconut each to drink, these were very young coconuts and the water tasted different from the one we collected from Charles' coconut. Then Tony opened up some coconuts for us and cut some spoons out of the coconut shells. The younger the coconut the softer the flesh.





I was really surprised to learn that you can also eat coconut when the leaves appear: Tony called it coconut marshmallow, and in fact it was soft (but not as soft as a marshmallow) white and spongy, with a delicate sweet taste, a bit like eating a gigantic soft macadamia nut. This was a favourite with the kids. My favourite was the the stalk of the young coconut plant: Tony peeled and passed it over, crunchy, fresh and a bit like a coconut celery. I have eaten this before, it is called heart of palm, and in Argentina I ate it in sandwiches (it is called palmito there), in Asia I ate it in a variety of dishes, and in New Zealand I went on a foraging trip with a Maori forest ranger and ate the heart of a young Nikau palm (but much smaller than this stalk of coconut!). Nikau heart too taste a little like coconut.




So if you visit Niue make sure that you visit a plantation, the market, or have friends with lots of coconuts, otherwise just  stop at your nearest coconut stall.





Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©



31 comments:

  1. Alessandra this look amazing, beauty pics I love coconut, gloria

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  2. Ale, ma che meraviglia di posto è questo!! E' proprio vero, con il cocco fanno assolutamente di tutto, perfino i materassi con le fibre, durissimi, ma vanno bene dove il clima è molto umido! Bellissime foto! ciao

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  3. Hi Alessandra! Great photos! I love fresh coconut! Didn't know how to contact you about the mangoes. They are in season in Australia during summer, December to February. There are a few mangoes in the market at the moment, but not very cheap. I believe we used the Keitt variety in our mango relish in this dish. http://adobodownunder.blogspot.com/2011/08/sole-goujon-with-mango-relish.html

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  4. Thank you Anna, I will remember this next time I visit Australia :-).

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  6. Alessandra, I am so happy that we met each other in blogosphere! I am following you too!! This post on coconut is so good to read and I loved going through the pictures as well! Like you, I love coconut as well...any form...we have a number of Indian dishes with coconut as an ingredient! Loved going through your impressive profile!! Hope to see you again on my blog!!

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  7. Our family could live off coconuts! The kids especially love green coconuts with the soft scoop-able flesh. I keep promising them the next time we go to Vietnam they can have as many as they like! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

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  8. Bellissimo reportage sul cocco che io amo molto....bellissime le foto...Un bacio Ale.

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  9. That was an amazing story. I am so jealous! Those are some great pictures too.

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  10. Che dire rimango incantata da queste foto meravigliose!

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  11. wow, that is an all-purpose coconut, put to so many uses :)

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  12. @ Emma, I think that coconut must be the perfect food for growing kids :-)!

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  13. I am very familiar with coconuts and how these people treat coconut is similar to what we usually do traditionally in Indonesia. I love young coconut meat and we always enjoy it poached in a sauce, made of palm sugar and a drizzle of coconut milk. We also drink the juice of young coconut anytime we want in Bali. My grandmother used to make broom out of coconut leaves, and some sculptures are made of coconut trees. You can find any bowls, spoons, forks, and other kitchen utensils are made of coconut trees in Bali. Even the Javanese use the fibre of the skin to light the fire and crafts. One coconut tree goes a long way!

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  14. Arfi, first of all I like to inform you that you are comment n.4,000! :-)

    I remember coconut from Bali and Jakarta, and everywhere in the Pacific and tropical Asia. And it is a great building material for huts and fales. It is truly the tree of life.

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  15. i had no idea how to approach a whole coconut! my daughter gets so excited when she sees them in the shops :)

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  16. Lovely post. To sip the water fr/ a cold coconut on a hot day is such a treat.

    (To answer your ? about BWW, yes, please do use your cell phone camera. You can take some fab shots w/ it. I encourage it. : })

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  17. Such beautiful images...so much to learn about coconut..I just love the taste of it! Hope all is well my friend...it is always such a joy to visit you. xoxo

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  18. All is well Koralee, there are sad moments though.

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  19. Hehe I love that they've got a coconut stop! Fresh coconut juice is so refreshing isn't it! :D

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  20. I like coconuts but never had the water. Is it sweet? It looks good!

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  21. queste son le cose che fanno la differenza in una vacanza, un bel racconto attraverso le immagini, ciauzzzzzzzzz

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  22. @ SNF, coconut water is not sweet, but not bitter either, is well rounded, and refreshing :-)

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  23. Now I see it all in context! No more info will fit in my brain so I'm treating myself to a bit of blog hopping ^_^ Gochisousama for tonight!

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  24. Foto bellissime, io lo adoro il cocco fresco, mi ricorda le vacanze che facevo prima che arrivassero i figli, peccato che qui da noi non si trovi. Ciao. ALESSANDRA

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  25. Che meraviglioso report, Alessandra! Mi hai insegnato un sacco di cose che non sapevo. Il cocco fresco non l'avevo mai nemmeno visto! Grazie mille!

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  26. Niue coconut is a staple it have many uses, for food and crafts. Most Niue dishes have coconut as part of it mainly in cream, baked or fresh. I live in Niue, born and grow up there.

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  27. @ Globalpeace, I learned a lot about coconut, and you live in a beautiful place :-)!

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  28. ora che ho avuto a che fare con il cocco questo post è ancora più interessante, ovviamente i cocchi che arrivano qui sono già più secchi, quelli che si vedono in queste foto esprimono tutta la loro freschezza, non avevo pensato ad aggiungerlo in insalata e visto che si avvicina la stagione dei piatti freschi me lo devo segnare, grazie di avermelo ricordato, ovviamente mi piacerebbe un sacco avere un vicino che mi passa i cocchi ^________^ bacisssimo!!!

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