You know that question people always ask… “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have three things with you, what would they be?” Most people say something like matches, a knife, bug spray, something to fish with, maybe a water purifier… Well, my answer is a little different. First of all, I hope the island I would get stranded on has coconuts (If not than this whole post wouldn’t matter and you can just forget I ever wrote it). If there are coconuts then I would take a machete, a grater (like the kind you use for cheese) and a solar powered blender (Do those exist? I’m sure they do.) I would also like to have a few survival skills under my belt, but that is a story for a different day.
After spending almost eight weeks on a deserted island in Thailand, my answer would still remain the same. (Ok, it wasn’t actually a deserted island but the population of the whole island is only 100 people in the high season, maybe 50 people when heading into the rainy season (which is when I was there), there are no roads, cars or stores, electricity for only four hours each night that is powered by a generator…andddd when the engine on the boat broke we could not go anywhere else to get food… so basically a deserted island.) I wasn’t stranded, my time here was voluntary and I loved every second of it, one of the reasons why, begin that I learned that my answer to this question could actually work…maybe (if I had those survival skills as well).
There was an abundance of coconuts on the island. Walking through the jungle we would get some coconuts off the trees, use a machete to cut them open, drink the water from inside and use the meat to make many different things. I always say you can live off of coconuts alone and while this may not actually be true, there are many health benefits provided by coconuts and many different uses that make it almost true. So as long as you get those basic survival skills under your belt (so you know what other plants you can/cannot use for various reasons and knowing how to start a fire would come in handy too), all you really need is a machete to open the coconuts, a grater to shred the coconut flesh and a solar powered blender to make some gourmet treats (okay, this one isn’t needed but it would be nice).
There are many different parts to a coconut and they can be used for different reasons depending on if the coconut is young or mature. Young coconuts are green on the outside and contain more water than the mature coconuts which are brown on the outside and have a hard flesh (or meat) compared to the gel like flesh of a young coconut.
- The husk: This is the outer part of the coconut and it is very strong. You can’t eat this part but it can be used to make many things from washing dishes, to stuffing “mattresses,” starting fires (survival skill #1) and making toys.
- The shell: This is under the husk and cannot be eaten either but it is very strong and can be made into many different things (like insta-famous coconut bowls and coconut utensils…maybe even a coconut bra? I don’t know, use your imagination).
- The flesh: Also known as the “meat”, this is the good stuff and is found inside the shell. It can be used to make many different vegan and raw food dishes, but can easily be made into coconut milk and oil. You can also eat the flesh raw and it is delicious! The type of flesh and the taste will vary depending on if the coconut is young or old. Younger coconuts have a gooey, gelatinous flesh while older coconuts have a firmer flesh.
- The water: Fresh coconut water is abundant in many vitamins and minerals and you can drink it just as it is. Coconuts from different regions have different tastes. I have found Thai coconuts to be a lot more sweet than earthy-tasting Jamaican coconuts.
- Coconut Embryo: aka coconut apple, is the sponge like ball found inside a germinated (sprouted) coconut. The apple can be found when there is a stem/leaf sprouting from the coconut shell and this, as the name apple suggests, is edible. And taste pretty damn delicious if you ask me. Its a cross between eating a cloud and cotton candy.
There are also other parts of the tree that can be eaten such as the heart (found under the leaves) and the roots have medicinal properties and a sap that can be extracted. The trunk can be used for building many things and the leaves can be woven into baskets and such.
There are even more uses to different parts of the coconut and coconut tree, I could go on forever but these are the most common ones.
Check out my list of 15 Everyday Uses for Coconut Oil here.
The flesh, also known as the meat, of coconuts is filled with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, while also being low in calories and fat. It contains two out of the eight essential amino acids, leucine and isoleucine. Amino acids are what make up protein. The essential ones, like leucine and isoleucine, must be present in every diet. Coconut flesh also contains a lot of minerals: iron, potassium, manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc. It contains a lot of fibre, which helps to slow down the digestion of different foods in the body so nutrients can be extracted. Antioxidants can also be found in coconut flesh which help to reduce damage caused by free radicals (aka the key player to the development of almost every illness/disease).
The water from a young coconut is better than any sports drink on the market, not only because it is naturally sweetened rather than using artificial sweeteners, but it has the same level of electrolytes balance that we have in our body. This means it helps muscles and nerves to function properly and it rapidly rehydrates our cells. But thats not all, it also contains potassium and B vitamins. It boosts the immune system because it contains ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C) and it helps to detoxify the body.
Coconut Oil (unprocessed, unrefined, virgin, cold-pressed)
All of those words above are important in order to get all the benefits from coconut oil. Coconut oil can be used for many different things, from cooking, to beauty care, to healing wounds. It is my favorite oil to cook with because it contains healthy fat and a lot of different nutrients. It even helps to boost your metabolism and aid in digestion and loss of fat. This is because of the medium chain fatty acids that it is made up of. It is also good for high heat cooking, unlike other oils that lose all their health benefits and can even become toxic to the body when heated to high temperatures. Other benefits of coconut oil are its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, making it a good topical treatment for wounds and can even be used to help with a yeast infection when combined with other oils. It reduces inflammation when both ingested and used topically, helps to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, contains antioxidants that help to repair damaged tissue and its amazing to use on cry or cracked skin, as a moisturizer or in your hair.
Coconut Milk contains about 6 grams of protein per cup, this is because it is made from the flesh of the coconut, which if you recall from above, contains two of the essential amino acids.
Coconut Sugar + Nectar
Coconut sugar and coconut nectar are both good options to use as natural sweeteners. They are low on the glycemic index , meaning they will not cause blood sugar to spike like artificial sweeteners and other natural sweeteners that are higher on the glycemic index. They are abundant in minerals, contain vitamin C and B Vitamins, as well as other vitamins and minerals, and contain 17 out of the 20 different amino acids.
Coconut Apple has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It is a source of healthy fat, making it and aid in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. And it is filled with nutrients just like the water. It has antioxidants which fight free radicals and help prevent many diseases/illness and premature aging.
My favorite ways to enjoy coconut on the island…
Cutting open a coconut, drinking the water and eating the meat is my favorite way to enjoy coconut. I also love to eat the apple, or shred the meat and add it on top of smoothie bowls, chia pudding or just eat it on its own! But here are a few more creative ways to use the different edible parts of coconuts…
How to make coconut milk from a whole coconut… island style
You’ll need a brown (mature) coconut for this. You don’t want a young coconut because the flesh will be too soft.
First you’re going to need to open the coconut. Here’s a video to guide you through this part.
Next, you need to shred the coconut. On the island they use a tool thats basically like a wooden foot stool with a circular blade with points like a sun. They sit on the wooden part with the blade in between their legs with a bowl underneath and scrap the coconut up and down on the blade, shredding the coconut. Unless you have one of these laying around somewhere, you can simply use a cheese grater. Remove the flesh from the coconut (as shown in the video) and use the grater to shred it.
Set the bowl of shredded coconut aside and heat about 4 cups of water on the stove. You just need to make it warm, if you let it come to a boil it will be too hot. (You’re going to be sticking your hands in it, but you can let it cool down a bit after adding it to the shredded coconut.)
Once the water is warm, add it to the bowl with the shredded coconut. Let this sit for about five minutes (or longer if you need it to cool down). Using your hands begin to scoop out some of the shredded coconut and squeeze it out to get all of the liquid out. Put the coconut pulp in another bowl (and save it to make some other treats). Continue this until you have most of the pulp out. You can use a strainer to separate the rest of pulp (or you can skip the whole hand method that I used on the island and use a nut milk bag to milk all of the liquid out. (P.S. I did actually have a nut milk bag with me in my backpack…but I didn’t wanna be that girl that just pulls out a nut milk bag on a deserted island, but maybe you’ll want to make one of these part of your three things to bring with you.))
And there you have your coconut milk. You can add some honey, coconut sugar, etc. to it to sweeten it a bit (although it should already be pretty sweet). You can store this in the fridge for about 7 days.
Raw Brownies… island style
What You’ll Need…
- Leftover coconut pulp (or store bought shredded coconut)
- Nut butter
- Honey (or another natural sweetener like hmmm….maybe…coconut sugar?!)
- Raw cacao powder
Since this is island style there really are no measurements here. Start by combining some of your sweetener of choice with raw cacao powder, then add some nut butter and slowly start to add the coconut pulp. Play around with the ingredients here until you get your desired sweetness, chocolatey-ness and texture. You want the mixture to stick together so you can form it in a square dish to cut into brownies or into bite size balls. Allow them to chill in the fridge for a few hours and enjoy!
Mmmm, I could eat smoked coconut all day long. It tastes like bacon. I’m serious. I don’t know how, but it does. Its easy to make too. Just cut a coconut open so the flesh is exposed and place it on a grate over a fire for awhile.
Other recipes using different parts of the coconut…
I haven’t mastered Island Coconut Curry yet, but here is another recipe you can follow.
Bliss balls are…well…pure bliss. Here is a delicious recipe using shredded coconut.
Ice Cream Pops
Meghan Telpner’s Coconut Kefir Ice Cream Pops are an easy and tasty way to get your probiotics in.
There are so many more recipes all of the internet that use different parts of the coconut. And of course, shredded coconut is an amazing option to top smoothie bowls, chia pudding, nice cream, pancakes and all your other sweet treats with. Coconut milk can be subbed for dairy-milk or other nut milks in recipes.