My Friend the Coconut – or – “The Tree of Life”
One of the first sights to welcome the eye of a tourist to our
beautiful tropical island paradise is the gentle and graceful wave
performed by (Cocos nucifera L.), the coconut palm.
Most people recognize the coconut as the ambassador to the tropics
but few realize the tremendous impact and importance that this
majestic palm has on the lives of so many people throughout the
– In some parts of the South Pacific the coconut provides the raw
materials for almost all of life’s daily needs.
– The timber from the trunk is used for; houses, furniture, boats,
tools, cutlery, inks, tourist novelties.
– The copra produces oils for; shampoos, perfumes, soaps,
margarines, dyes, fuel and lighting.
– The leaves are used for; roofs, hats, baskets, umbrellas, paper,
– The fibre from the nut provides material for; mattresses,
pillows, mats, ropes, upholstery.
– In fact, every part of the coconut, from root to flower is used
in some way as a commercial or dietary requisite.
However, it is the nut of the coconut tree that is of the greatest
importance. This oft-maligned nut is arguably one the finest foods
known to science.
Here on Magnetic Island, as on most tropical Isles, coconuts can be
found everywhere, providing an abundance of food – if only we would
take the time to partake of its simple offering.
No, it is not a fast food. It takes a few minutes to de-husk the
nut, crack the shell and scoop out the delicious meat inside – but
it is worth the effort.
Each nut, approximately 2-3 kg in weight, contains sterile water.
Ed Note: This water was used in the Pacific campaign in place of
blood transfusions when blood was in short supply.
In young nuts, which are green in colour, the water will be found
to be cool and sweet at all times even though the air temperatures
might be very high.
This delicious water contains many minerals and a very easily
The meat contained in the young nuts resembles jelly and can be
spooned out of the shell.
As the nut matures, the colours change toward an orange hue.
The water capacity and consistency also change and the meat begins
to harden into a rubbery consistency.
By the time the nut has turned brown and fallen from the tree,
there may be very little water left and the meat will be very hard
At this later stage, the meat is usually dried, grated and sold as
desiccated coconut – the form with which most people are familiar.
However, if the coconut is eaten in all stages of ripeness, from
young to old, it will sustain the human organism in pristine health.
Now, I don’t know if I could go on a mono diet of coconut (unless I
were to be shipwrecked on a deserted Island) but it is nice to know
that there is no reason for any of us to starve, should push come
There is an interesting story told about 2 German scientists
(Bethman and Englehart) stranded on a small Island (the Duke of
York located in the Bismarck Archipelago) during WWII.
They had run out of supplies and were forced to exist solely on a
diet of coconuts.
Fifteen years after the war, they were rescued and found to be in a
state of health that surpassed their original health at the time of
their forced isolation.
In fact, they refused to leave the Island and formed a cocovarian
And finally, the coconut is a most polite palm – It usually waits
until the night to drop its fruit and that’s why there are so few
accidents from falling nuts.
Don’t kick it around!