Just how many uses of the coconut are there?
Coconuts are a natural product with an incredible number of uses. There are some naturally occurring things that have a multitude of uses, and coconuts are definitely one of the best examples.
Just how many uses of coconuts are there?
The coconut meat, the liquid inside, the hard outer shell, the husk (the fibre surrounding the coconut), the leaves, the roots, the flowers and the trunk can all be used in some way. So pretty much every single part of the coconut tree can be used in some way. It’s pretty much a zero waste product!
1. Coconut Water
The juice of a coconut, the water, can be drunk directly from the coconut (most common is areas where they’re grown) or in slightly colder countries you can buy bottled and canned coconut water.
“Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside green, immature coconuts. Young coconuts are favoured for their water as it is tastier, plentiful in volume and easier to access by chopping the top off the softer shell. More mature coconuts have a harder husk and less water inside because it gradually solidifies to form the flesh.
Different varieties of coconut yield slightly different-tasting water depending on where they are grown.”
The white flesh of a coconut can be used in lots of different ways. The meat can be eaten fresh from the coconut but the meat can also be used to make oil, milk, cream and desiccated coconut.
2. Coconut oil
Most commercially made coconut oil comes from copra, which is the dried coconut meat. The initial extraction of oil from the coconut meat yields what we call, ‘virgin coconut oil.’
Cooking – Coconut oil is great for cooking. It can be bought as a hard oil (you just need to melt it for cooking), and it’s used to produce spreads as well.
Oil Pulling – Quite a few people use coconut oil to promote oral health. “Oil pulling is an ancient practice that involves swishing oil in your mouth to remove bacteria and promote oral hygiene”.
Moisturiser – Coconut oil can be used as a moisturiser, but people with oily or acne prone skin should probably avoid it as it can clog your pores. I’d probably advise against using it on the face, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be used on your body. It’s also found as an ingredient in moisturisers.
There are different types of coconut oil available and some are better than others. You’ll see unrefined and refined coconut oil, cold-pressed, hydrogenated, virgin… but what does this all mean?
3. Coconut Milk & Coconut Cream
“Coconut milk is made by grating fresh coconut flesh and then working that with water, traditionally by hand. With little or no water added, rich coconut cream is obtained, while more water and greater working results in a thinner milk.”
Both coconut milk and coconut cream can be used in cooking to replace dairy milk or cream. They’re particularly good in curries to give a nice creamy texture. Many people also drink coconut milk as their plant milk of choice. You can use coconut cream to make a dairy free whipped cream.
4. Desiccated Coconut
To make desiccated coconut, the coconut meat is grated or flaked and then dried to remove as much water as possible. Possibly one of the most well known uses of desiccated coconut is as a filling in a certain chocolate bar. It’s also commonly used in baking. Desiccated coconut can also be ground down to make a powder.
5. Coconut Shell
The hard shell of the coconut can be used in a variety of ways. It’s quite often discarded or burnt as a waste by-product but more companies are finding that coconut shells make absolutely beautiful bowls and more.
6. Coir or Coconut Husk
Coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. This coconut fibre can be used for ropes, flooring, doormats, brushes and as padding in mattresses or upholstery. Coir is also great for gardening. Some potting mixes contain coir and it’s also “an excellent medium for gardening in that it holds moisture while allowing air to pass through. This enables plants to stay hydrated without developing rot or fungus. It is also resistant to garden pests such as moths. Once it has dried out, coir absorbs water better than peat moss during water reapplication, and it maintains more moisture.”
7. Coconut Leaves / Fronds
In some poorer parts of the world, and in places where coconut trees are commonly found, the leaves, or fronds, can be used to make shelters. The leaves can be thatched and as they look so beautiful they have been used as decoration for weddings as well. The leaves can also be used to sweep floors or to make baskets.
8. The Roots
The roots of a coconut are fibrous. These fibres can be used as a toothbrush! More commonly though the roots can be chopped up and boiled and then create a dye. They are a traditional remedy for dysentery and other digestive problems. Sometimes they’re used as a mouthwash as well.
Even the flowers of the coconut tree have their uses. The sap can be used to make alcohol or vinegar by boiling it. Coconut flower nectar is also a great replacement for refined sugar as it’s a much healthier option.
Finally the trunk of a coconut tree is also useful. The most obvious use being as firewood, although the shells and husk are also commonly used for fires as well. Burning the coconut husk is thought to help keep mosquitos away.
Once a coconut palm tree has stopped producing coconuts the trunks can be used as lumber. They are inexpensive and should last a long time.