Coconut Love (with video "How To Open A Coconut With A Kitchen Knife"

I thought it fitting to kick off my blog with a tribute to my current infatuation... young, green coconuts! I got hooked on coconut water when my mom brought me some in the hospital after I had my son, who is now 7-months and loves coconut too!  Here is the nutshell version of buying, opening and cooking fresh coconuts!

If you're not familiar with "young green coconuts", they are less mature than the brown ones commonly found at the grocery store. Green coconuts have more "water" and the "meat " is thinner and softer than brown coconuts. Green coconuts can be found in health food stores and Asian markets for $1-3 each.  They are actually white because the green husk has been cut away, and are wrapped in plastic. I look for coconuts that are big, firm and heavy, and I check the bottoms for discolored spots. You should not be able to hear water sloshing inside.

P.S.   I found out that the stuff my mom brought me in the hospital was actually frozen and lightly sweetened, and taste just like fresh (unlike the bottled stuff). It can be found at the Asian market for 99-cents, frozen flat in individual bags and even has little chunks of coconut meat inside.

Opening a coconut is easy if you know where to find the "secret spot".  They do not have an "eye" to pierce and drain like you would a brown coconut.  I have opened brown coconuts by putting them in a plastic grocery bag and smashing it with a hammer or on the concrete, but that would waste the water in a young coconut. First you want to shave as much of the outer husk off the top as you can (the top is the pointy end). Using the back of a large knife, whack the coconut in a 2-inch diameter around the top. As you're doing this you will start to see a "seam" open in a perfect circle at the top of the coconut. Then you will be able to use the tip of your knife to lift the "lid" off and pour the water out!
When you open a coconut, you'll have the water which you can drink straight, and the meat which can be eaten or made into coconut milk. Fresh coconut water is amazing, nothing like the bottled kind. The meat is gelatinous and easily scoops away from the shell. When I researched making coconut milk, I read to blend or grate the meat and then pour hot water over it and squeeze it through muslin/cheesecloth etc. I think this method would work better with the thick, tough meat from a mature brown coconut because it was much too watery when I tried it. (If anyone knows more about this I would love to know!). I skip the water and blend the soft coconut meat in my Magic Bullet and get perfectly smooth, rich and creamy coconut milk. Plus, it doesn't separate and harden in the fridge like the canned stuff. It is probably truly a coconut "cream" and makes the perfect baby food.  My lil' guy doesn't even make "gag face" and he opens up and leans in for bite after bite!  Blended coconut is perfect for blending with other fruit, veg & meat purées.  You're probably wondering if coconuts pose an allergy risk - from what I read, coconuts are considered a tree nut but are not considered a common allergen like peanuts.  If there are nut allergies in your family I would use caution.

My favorite ways to use coconut milk are in a custard, to make popsicles (here and here via Pinterest), and in soup (recipe at the end of the post). I still keep canned coconut milk in the house since I don't always have fresh ones available and it's a 30-minute drive to get them!

I can't possibly remember all the amazing health benefits of these tropical goodies but here are some of the highlights:
  • coconut water contains electrolytes which is why they are becoming popular sports drinks
  • coconut water has 3g of fiber
  • the "good fat" in coconut is a medium chain fatty acid (absorbs easily and helps burn fat), and is good for cooking on high heat
  • coconut has properties found in breastmilk and human blood
  • coconut oil is an excellent skin moisturizer and fights bacteria

I hope I've peaked your curiosity and you'll go out and find some young, green coconuts to try!

Here's the recipe for my daughter's favorite soup...

Coconut Ginger Soup
1 quart chicken stock
1 can or 2 cups coconut milk
2-3" piece ginger, sliced large enough to strain out later
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tsp Coriander, or to taste
Shredded chicken
Lime wedges

Bring stock to a boil and simmer onions, carrots and ginger til carrots are soft. Strain and remove ginger. (sometimes I don't slice all the way through the ginger so it is still in one piece to make this easier). Season with fish or soy sauce and coriander, add coconut milk and chicken and warm gently. Serve with a squeeze of lime.

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