‘’You can sit under a coconut tree, a coconut will never fall on your head’’
My Grandpa often used to say this. He had placed such great faith on The Kalpa Vriksha, The Coconut Tree.
But I never tried relaxing under a coconut tree. There was always the fear of a dry coconut leaf falling abruptly from the tree. But I have never seen coconuts falling abruptly. Can we call The Coconut Tree as The Mother of all trees? I was overwhelmed by seeing how a coconut tree offers itself fully as a Mother does. No wonder ancients called it ‘’The Kalpa Vriksha’’ The life-giving tree. Coconut is also the ‘’Sri phal’’ The auspicious fruit.
COCONUT THE FRUIT
Coconut is an essential ingredient in most of the Kerala Cuisines. Mostly wet coconut is used for making the basic gravy in innumerable mouthwatering delights. Dry coconut is used for making the Coconut oil. Again, this oil is used in cooking. Dry coconut is also used as a flavoring agent in sweet dishes like payasam. Coconut milk is extracted from wet coconut. Coconut milk is handy for vegan recipes as a tasty replacement for cow’s milk. Coconut milk is also used for making the essential oil of coconut. Coconut contains essential fatty acids called medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT) which is good for metabolism.
I remember making small amounts this delicate and aromatic essential oil from coconut milk when my children were small, for their tender skin and hair growth. Coconut Oil used in cooking enhances the flavor of curries and sauces. It is a good moisturizer for skin and hair. Lightly warm a small amount of virgin coconut oil and massage on the scalp to keep it moisturized. Natural ingredients like hibiscus petals, aloe vera, and shallots are added to virgin coconut oil to make it a healthy natural hair oil.
TENDER COCONUT WATER
Before citing the many health benefits of tender coconut water, let me say it is my favorite drink. Whenever I travel to distant places, I try to grab a tender coconut drink and a bunch of locally grown bananas. More than any sightseeing, these fruits conveyed something subtle about the sun and sand of that place. I am never satisfied until I tasted these local gems.
Coconut water is a rich source of Nutrients, Antioxidants, Minerals, and it helps in hydration of the skin and body. It is easy on the stomach and contains less sugar compared to other fruit juices. We can consider drinking tender coconut water as a diet drink. Coconut water is used in making yummy colorful and luscious nice creams which is a sugar-free, dairy-free dessert.
Let’s go ‘’vocal for local’’ and give tender coconut water its due importance as the most favored and purest natural drink for all occasions.
The golden coconut flowers are considered very auspicious and are used as an important decorative item for marriages and pujas in Kerala.
Roots, trunk, dry shells, and dry leaves are used as firewood in kitchens. Dry leaves are plaited and used for thatching roofs. A good deal of handcrafted kitchen appliances and artifacts are made from coconut shells. The stems are used for making sturdy brooms. Brooms making and plaiting dry coconut leaves is one favorite pastime of rural women. I remember using a split coconut stem as a use and throw tongue cleaner in my childhood. And the brushing was done with fingers dipped in ‘’umikkari’’ a black and smoked roughage made from rice husks. Rock salt and powdered pepper were also added in ‘’Umikkari’’ to make it feel just so perfect when applied on gums.
I can’t stress enough about the importance of eating more of alkaline foods for the health of our gut and general well being. A healthy diet must consist of 80 percent of alkaline foods and 20 percent of acidic foods. Green coconut and its derivatives are more alkaline. The more we process it goes towards being more acidic. The approximate pH of coconut is between 5.5 to 7.8. The pH of coconut milk is 6.1 to 7. The pH of coconut water is 5.71.
THE VEDIC IMPORTANCE OF COCONUT
Our favorite fruit finds its place in Vedas too. Coconut is one of the three symbols used in The Poorna Kumbha or Poorna Kalasha. The Poorna Kumbh is a Vedic motif from the Rig Veda. The Kumbh is supposed to contain ‘’Amrita’’ the elixir of life and hence it is considered as a symbol of abundance, wisdom, and immortality.
Now, What about a yummy Payasam prepared in fresh coconut milk In Recipes Section. 🙂
Serves 6 to 8
Cooking Time 1 hour.
500 gm split chickpeas (kadala/chana dal )
500 gm jaggery
2 cups diluted coconut milk
1 cup thick coconut milk
¼ cup pre-soaked sabudana (tapioca pearls)
A handful of cashews and raisins
A handful of roasted dry coconut pieces
2 teaspoons dry ginger powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
5 to 6 tablespoons cow ghee
Wash and cook the split chickpeas in the cooker. You may need five to six whistles in the cooker to get it well cooked. Cool it and mash it with a wooden ladle.
Melt jaggery in half a cup of water. Allow to cool.
Sieve and remove any impurities.
Take a thick bottomed Uruli (or any deep pan ), pour 2 tsp ghee. To this add the mashed chickpeas. Slow cook. Add a few spoonfuls of ghee in between stirring. Add melted jaggery into the pan. Keep stirring and slow cook on medium flame. Once the mixture thickens add diluted coconut milk. Add the tapioca pearls at this time. Keep stirring till the water content is absorbed and the mixture thickens to the payasam consistency. This takes almost 45 minutes and continuous stirring.
Add the flavoring agents cardamom and dry ginger powder. Add the thick coconut milk, stir and simmer only for two minutes. Add cashews, raisins and dry coconut slices roasted in ghee.
Best enjoyed when served hot on a banana leaf. Mash a small sweet banana in the payasam and eat handfuls of sweetness.
BOOK SECTION ON NUTRITION AND WELLNESS :
The Wellness Sense: A Practical Guide to Your Physical and Emotional Health Based On Ayurvedic And Yogic Wisdom By Om Swami.
Indian Super Foods Change the way you eat By Rujuta Diwekar
The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy And Feeling Younger By Diana Schwarzbein And Nancy Deville.