Coconut is called kalpavriksha, much coveted in Hindu religion and is an integral part of every religious ritual. Hindus believe that coconut is the purest form of offering that one can tender to God. Coconut palms symbolise paradise. It is believed that whosoever plants a coconut tree in his backyard, ensures food and drink, utensils and clothing, a heat source for himself and a heritage for his children. Besides looking beautiful, each and every part of this wonder tree is used for some purpose or the other. What those uses are we will discuss later in this write up.
A nut so pure
When we were small my mother always would tell us that the sweet water that the shell holds is like nectar, pure and untouched by human hand. It is drawn by the tree from its very base to its highest level. It is said that the coarsely-knit outer fibres of the coconut which encase the nut, represent the jealousy, greed, lust, selfishness and other vices of man. The fibres have to be removed before you can reach the nut which when broken yields the water and pure white flesh.
Did you know that the three distinct eyes of the coconut symbolise the Trinity of Evolution – Brhama, Vishnu, Maheshwar who are Gods of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution. The eyes also represent the three eyes of man – the two physical eyes plus the third one which is the 'inner eye' or the mind's eye or conscience which alone helps one to distinguish the right from the wrong and penetrate the false, outer facade to reach the ultimate truth.
Where did coconut come from?
There is some dispute as to where this wonder nut originated. However, the first ever record available dates back to 545 AD when Cosmos, an Egyptian, saw them in India and Sri Lanka. Later Marco Polo discovered them in Indonesia. A recent theory says that coconut originated in East Pacific islands of Polynesia. It was in 1995 that a fossil coconut fruit was reported in southern Queensland, which means that the coconut palm has been around for at least two million years.
One can find mention of coconut in Sanskrit writings as far back as 4th century BC. They are also frequently mentioned in early Tamil literature dating from between the 1st century AD to the 4th century AD. Coconuts also feature in the Hindu epic stories The Ramayana and the Mahabharata and also in the Puranas.
Cultivation of coconut
You will know what I mean that these trees are beautiful if you travel along the Konkan region where the entire coastline is embedded with scores and scores of coconut palms. The scene is to be seen to be believed. This wonder nut is grown in almost all Southeast and Far East Asian countries. They need soil rich in organic matter to grow well. Rainy weather further boosts its growth. The gestation period of the coconut tree, from planting to flowering, is around five years. A mature tree produces around six crops per annum at an average of 3,500 coconuts per acre, per pick.
Numerous are its uses
#And now I will enumerate the various uses of coconut plant as promised earlier.
#First of all let us discuss its culinary uses. Then water got from tender coconuts is not just delicious, but is very nutritious too what with the presence of natural sugars, vitamins and minerals. This water can be enjoyed through the year but more so during intense summer months. It also has diuretic properties.
#The white flesh is extensively used in cooking either in ground form or as coconut milk or even as scraped coconut which when used to garnish enhances the look of the dish. Coconut can be used to make both savoury and sweet preparations. Since the coconut is grown extensively along the Konkan coast, it is used in most of the South Indian cuisines as also in Tamilian and Andhra cuisines.
#The oil that is extracted from coconut oil is abundantly used by people in India and in Southeast Asia. Mostly it is used as hair oil but it is also used for cooking in many parts like Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It is believed that coconut oil promotes healthy hair growth and also keeps it black, shining and lustrous.
#Numerous are the things that can be made with the shell of the coconut. Tableware such as bowls, tray, spoons and ladles; fashion accessories such as bangles, pendants, earrings and buttons can be made with the shells. That is not all the shells along with the husks are used by many as fuel to heat water or even in outdoor cooking.
#The trunk of the coconut palm is cut into blocks and used as a support for tiled roofs. The tree trunk is also used in making furniture.
#The midribs of the coconut leaves are dried, cleaned and trimmed to make brooms.
#Coconut fibre or the coconut husk, which is also known as coir is abundantly used throughout south India to make ropes, foot rugs, bags, floor brushes and many other handicraft items. The coconut leaves are woven to create products like baskets, bags and mats, belts etc.
#The dried coconut leaves are used to make roofing materials even today among many poorer section of the society in India and elsewhere. These days even amongst the affluent, these leaves are used as style statements especially in restaurants and holiday resorts.
#Besides all these one can even use some part or other of the coconut tree in the making of soaps, wine, textiles, baskets, cups and bowls, medicines, boat and building materials.
Its many medicinal properties:
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.