You’d be hard-pressed to find a tropical holiday postcard that does not feature swaying palm trees, sometimes laden with clustered orbs. The epitome of beach paradises and island jungles, palm trees are used around the world for landscaping and cultivation.
The most important of all cultivated palms is the coconut palm. At one point, this tall tree was nearly eradicated from Cayman due to lethal yellowing disease, but it is obvious to see that it is once again thriving.
The coconut has often been referred to as the fruit of life, due to its plethora of uses, from food, water and bowls to floatation devices and building materials.
The name coco is in reference to the grinning face-like features some forms of the nut, botanically a drupe, possess, and hails from the Portuguese language. Everything within its hard exterior can be consumed, with its meat, milk, water and oil all providing different nutritional benefits. Coconut is high in protein and fiber. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and E. Coconut water is most plentiful when the “nut” is juvenile and is hailed for its electrolyte content. It is therefore used by many post-exercise.
Coconut milk is made by grating the meat of the coconut and mixing it with the water.
Coconut meat and the oil it contains have high amounts of medium-chain saturated fatty acids (mainly lauric acid), which are quickly converted to energy and are thought of as beneficial to the body. However, coconut meat, milk and oil should still be consumed in moderation due to the high calorie and fat levels.
How to eat
Coconut can be consumed raw, or used as part of recipes. The milk is often added to dishes such as stews, desserts and curries.
Vanessa Borba, Chef de Cuisine at the Westin, shares a recipe for coconut rice pudding in a jar, with lavender crème anglaise, which serves 10 people.
Ingredients for rice pudding
8 ounces rice
8 ounces simple syrup (light)
8 ounces heavy cream
10 ounces coconut milk
4 ounces sugar
1 each lemon and orange zest
Wash rice until water runs clear. Add all ingredients except cream to a pan and cook slowly until smooth. Cool.
Whip the cream and fold the cooled mix into it. Put mix into individual jars.
Ingredients for lavender
4 cups milk
Pinch lavender seeds
14 egg yolks
5 ounces sugar
Warm the milk with the lavender seeds. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar. Add the milk to the egg yolk mix, put it back in a pan. Cook it until 85°C. Cool it down immediately in an inverse Bain Mary with the ice. Decorate with toasted sheered coconut and orange zest if desired.