Finding a whole fresh coconut at the grocery store feels like an exciting discovery. You're drawn to the brown, fuzzy orb...but do you know what to do with it once you take it home?
Most fruits are pretty straightforward—an apple is an easy bite; a banana, a simple peel; a kiwi—okay, that’s a little more complicated, but it’s not hard to figure out that all you have to do is slice. A coconut, though, is like staring at a bowling ball, trying to figure out how to eat it.
Like all great things, coconuts are a total package. The sweet and nutty water—sometimes also referred to as juice—inside is super-hydrating, low-calorie, fat-free and loaded with potassium and electrolytes. Then there’s the white meat, loaded with vitamins A and E, which work with polyphenols and phytosterols to decrease levels of bad cholesterol. Shave it off and toast it to make yummy coconut flakes, or scrape it out and freeze it as a nutrient-rich smoothie ingredient. The water and the meat can even be blended to make homemade coconut milk, which—forget about almond milk—is all the rage.
Basically, coconuts are a food-lover's dream. But how the heck do you get past that outer shell? It's actually much simpler than it seems. First things first: is this a young or mature coconut we’re dealing with?
Young coconuts are green or white, have a much higher water content, and meat that is soft and somewhat gelatinous. In this case, take a strong, blunt knife and shave off the husk from one of the pointy ends to reveal a small palm-sized circle of exposed shell. Take a hammer and whack the coconut firmly along the circumference of this exposed portion of shell repeatedly until it cracks. Once it does, pull the top right off with your hands. Grab a straw and sip some pure nourishment, and then with a spoon, scrape out the meat and enjoy that as a treat—or collect it in a container and freeze it up.
The mature coconut (those hairy brown ones we all know and love) is not to be ignored, though. These are ideal for making coconut milk. To unearth the gifts of the mature coconut, first check out the three eyes at the top of the shell—one of these is soft enough to drive a screwdriver right through. Slip a straw in there and drink it up, or empty the water out into a bowl for some DIY coconut milk.
Once empty, take the coconut in one hand and hammer it along the equator (think of the eyes as the North Pole). It will crack right in half after a few trips around the globe. Freeze the halves for 15 minutes to loosen the meat from the outer shell. Afterwards, use a flat-head screwdriver or spoon to pry out the meat halves.
Remove the brown husk with a vegetable peeler, then slice the meat up into pieces. (Warning: the meat from a mature coconut is rock hard —no good for smoothies.) Throw the meat in a food processor or blender with the coconut water and 2 cups of boiling filtered water for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve or colander, and voila! Look at you, making your very own coconut milk from scratch.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont