During our recent Maui vacation my husband discovered that fresh coconuts were sold at the farmers’ market in Kahana just down the street from where we stayed. He was so excited by this that he would walk there early each morning to buy a fresh coconut still in its husk from a vendor who opens it with a machete. Armed with a straw and a large green coconut, he walks across the street to the beach to watch the sunrise. Every time I buy coconut in the store, I reserve the coconut water for him to drink. I always taste it to make sure the coconut is fresh.
Did you know that not all coconut water is the same? It isn’t. As a coconut matures its sweetness decreases. The sweetest stage occurs when it is about 40% ripe. It is known as tender coconut since the kernel is soft like jelly and can be eaten with a spoon. This is my husband’s favorite stage. When a coconut approaches 70% mature, they look full size. This is the stage at which he finds them in Maui. Not quite as sweet and the kernel has started to harden, he still finds these a treat. When a coconut is fully mature, the kernel has reached the hardness that is found in the grocery store. The water isn’t as sweet but it is still refreshing. The water in the red variety of tender coconuts that grows in his hometown in Kerala is even sweeter than the most common ones. The mature red coconut kernel is not used for cooking though.
Now that I’ve mentioned Kerala, this small state grows the most coconuts in the entire country of India, about half! India, on the other hand, ranks third in the world.
I have known for years that Indians love to drink coconut water, especially from tender coconuts. I saw people on the streets in Chennai, Kochi and Mumbai drinking it from bottles as well as husks. I suspect that if I asked a random person on the street what is the national drink of India, he would reply unhesitatingly, coconut water, of course!
In addition to health benefits of coconut milk in piña coladas. A bit of coconut water mixes nicely with vodka and juices, such as cranberry, lime or pomegranate. It can also be added to desserts for a rich taste. I have added a bit to cookies, puddings and ice cream before I freeze it.
The best thing about coconut water is you don’t have to break a coconut to get it. It is now available in bottles and small, individual serving juice boxes. The number of different brands and sizes that were available in my local Indian grocery surprised me. Once I noticed drink boxes of this refreshing drink, I started seeing it in every grocery store from Wal-Mart to Safeway. It looks like a new trend!
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