The Thai coconuts palm is nicknamed “The Tree of Life” this is because practically every part of the tree is utilised in everyday life. There is a part to eat, a part to drink, a part to use as fuel, a part to use for weaving and many other uses besides!.
In Thailand ,coconut palms are usually grown in large plantations. The trees are planted in regimented rows of raised earth beds parallel to irrigation canals.
It takes up to a year for coconuts to mature, but the trees bloom up to thirteen times annually, allowing the fruits to be harvested all year round. Thai coconuts are typically harvested before they are mature, as the husks are thinner and the “meat” is gelatinous.
Interestingly in certain parts of Thailand monkey’s are trained & used for “harvesting” the young Thai coconuts, they scale the trees, twist the coconuts to release them from the trees & then toss them down to the ground, very interesting to watch if you have chance.
Fresh young Thai coconuts can be enjoyed in a multitude of various ways. The juice of a young coconut is a very refreshing drink and tastes like water with a hint of almonds, coconut water is actually reckoned to be one of the most healthy & nutritious drinks you can have, even more so than freshly squeezed orange juice!.
A hole can be punched into the coconut to sip the juice using a straw, or alternatively the coconut can be cracked open carefully using a cleaver and pour the juice out into a pitcher, then open the shell, scoop out the soft flesh inside with a spoon & eat as a snack.
Thai coconuts are not much different from any other young coconuts grown in other parts of the world, however they do contain a certain key ingredient, they are ingrained with centuries of Thai culture which gives them an extra special taste.
Young coconuts are a “core” ingredient in many Thai Cuisine Dishes,particularly the coconut milk, which is made when grated coconut “meat” is mixed with water and then pressed. The milk is then used extensively in soups, curries, desserts and even drinks.
Many of the Thai dishes that originate particularly from the Southern Region rely heavily on coconut milk to provide the basis of the dish, but as you travel further north, the reliance disappears, with other subtle flavors taking over.
Other parts of the coconut also have their uses:
* after the empty shells are dried, they can be fashioned into kitchen utensils, musical instruments or decorative items.
* the dried fibrous husks or “coir” as it’s known in the West is also used to stuff mattresses, make thatched roofs, to build fires, make brushes, mats, fishnets, and rope!.
* if the coconut “meat” is dried, it can be pressed to make coconut oil used in commercial frying, for making candies & cosmetic soaps.
* a highly potent “toddy” or drink can also be made from the coconut palms sap.
* palm sugar can be made using coconuts, this is done by cutting through seed pods while they are still attached to the tree and the sap is slowly harvested. The sap will be boiled until it crystallizes and poured into molds which then become the sugar.
So all in all, the coconut palm & the delicious young Thai coconuts we all get to enjoy really do come from “the tree of life”!.