12-13 coconuts

On the uses of coconuts

I think the society of Vanuatu would collapse if there was a coconut plague. Seriously. Let me try to describe the uses of coconuts here.

First, you have the green coconuts. They are Vanuatu Cola and Vanuatu Jello. The water in them is delicious and can be drunk like pop, it is also better than Oral Rehydration Salts then you break them open and eat the tasty and soft meat on the inside which has a consistency and texture similar to jello.

Once the coconuts are brown and fall off the tree, they have a whole different set of uses. For instance, the meat can be grated or scraped out of the shell and “milked” to make coconut milk. It is a serious process, but the result is so tasty. Then you can turn the shell into a cup. The fiberous insides of the husk can be molded into a strainer for milking the coconuts. They also make a great fire starter and are used for stabilizing the temperature of the fire. Adding and subtracting coconut husks keeps it steady. (Usually adding, they don’t seem to have a concept of “overcooked” here.)

The coconuts that are left alone long enough sprout into navara, which is like coconut-flavored cotton candy. Delicious. Getting into the navara is a trick. You hold the sprouted part in both hands and swing the husk at a convenient rock until either you or the coconut gives up. Not every coconut is sweet, some are bitter and those are pig food. You don’t know which a coconut is going to be without first going to the effort of opening it.

The tree itself makes a fiber that is like cloth. This coconut burlap is used for making kava and other straining purposes. The branch that covers the baby coconuts is used as a fire-carrying device. You pull it apart a little bit then fold it in half. It burns steadily and slowly so you can go to your neighbor, light your torch from their fire and get back to your house without burning your hands. If none of those have fallen down recently and there isn’t a convenient child to send up a tree after one, you can use the dry coconut fronds instead. They burn faster. Lots faster.

The fresh coconut fronds can be woven into matts, baskets and plates. Don’t eat soup on the plate, or at least make sure it has a solid base of rice. The baskets can be made in with varying size openings to carry everything from kumala to more coconuts. Stripping the leafy part of the frond away from the spines and fastening the spines together makes a very nice broom.

Coconuts also have other random uses of any object of about that shape and size: pillow, thing to throw at your brother, stool, soccer ball, idle entertainment.

I really do think society would collapse without coconut trees.

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