- The white, fleshy part of the seed is edible and used fresh or dried in cooking.
- Sport fruits are also harvested, primarily in the Philippines, where they are known as macapuno. They are sold in jars as "gelatinous mutant coconut" cut into balls or strands.
- The cavity is filled with coconut water which contains sugar, fibre, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Coconut water provides an isotonic electrolyte balance, and is a highly nutritious food source. It is used as a refreshing drink throughout the humid tropics and is also used in isotonic sports drinks. It can also be used to make the gelatinous dessert nata de coco. Mature fruits have significantly less liquid than young immature coconuts; barring spoilage, coconut water is sterile until opened.
- The leftover fibre from coconut milk production is used as livestock feed.
- The sap derived from incising the flower clusters of the coconut is fermented to produce palm wine, also known as "toddy" or, in the Philippines, tuba. The sap can also be reduced by boiling to create a sweet syrup or candy.
- In the Philippines, rice is wrapped in coco leaves for cooking and subsequent storage - these packets are called puso.
The coconut is one of many edible nuts.
What is the shelf-life of an unopened coconut
How long does an unopened coconut last? The 'shelf-life of an unopened coconut is around 3 months (12 weeks) from the date it is picked. bearing in mind that coconuts only grow in tropical climates, you probably need to subtract up to 8 weeks to allow for the time it takes to transport them from where they are grown to when they reach your supermarket shelf. That could only leave a shelf-life of 4 weeks. I have had rancid coconuts on many occasions, so now I buy them only when I need them. If I need the coconut (flesh) for an important recipe, I open it in the supermarket car-park so I can return it instantly if it has gone bad. Morrisons take note! The life of an unopened coconut can be extended by refrigeration. However, there is no way to check that you are not storing a bad coconut in the first instance.
How do I tell if a fresh coconut has gone bad?
Trust me, you'll know! A bad coconut has a very peculiar smell once cracked open. Depending upon how rancid it has become, the coconut water looks grey. On a fresh coconut, the water should be clear. If the coconut fails those tests and you are brave enough to taste the flesh it has a very sour flavour.
Coconut milk is made by processing grated coconut with hot water or milk, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It should not be confused with the coconut water discussed above, and has a fat content of approximately 17%. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate out the milk. The milk is used to produce virgin coconut oil by controlled heating and removing the oil fraction. Virgin coconut oil is found superior to the oil extracted from copra for cosmetic purposes.
Two grades of coconut milk exist: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. Thick milk is used mainly to make desserts and rich, dry sauces. Thin milk is used for soups and general cooking. This distinction is usually not made in western nations since fresh coconut milk is usually not produced, and most consumers buy coconut milk in cans. Manufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine the thin and thick squeezes, with the addition of water as a filler.
Depending on the brand and age of the milk itself, a thicker, more paste like consistency floats to the top of the can, and is sometimes separated and used in recipes that require coconut cream rather than coconut milk. Shaking the can prior to opening will even it out to a cream like thickness. Some brands sold in western countries add thickening agents to prevent the milk from separating inside the can, since the separation tends to be misinterpreted as a sign of spoilage by people who have no experience with coconut milk.
Once opened, cans of coconut milk must be refrigerated, and are usually only good for a few days. Coconut milk should never be left at room temperature, as the milk can sour and spoil easily.
Coconut milk can be made at home by processing grated coconut with hot water or milk, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It should not be confused with the coconut water discussed above, and has a fat content of approximately 17%. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate out from the milk.
Coconut milk is a common ingredient in many tropical cuisines, most notably that of Southeast Asia (especially the Philippines, Indonesian, Burmese, Cambodia, Malaysian, Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Thai, West African, Caribbean, and Polynesian cuisines. Coconut milk can usually be found in the Asian food sections of supermarkets either frozen or canned. Frozen coconut milk tends to stay fresh longer, which is important in dishes in which the coconut flavour is not competing with curries and other spicy dishes.
Coconut milk is often the base of Thai curries. To make the curry sauce, the coconut milk is first cooked over fairly high heat to break down the milk and cream and allow the oil to separate. The curry paste is then added, as well as any other seasonings, meats, vegetables and garnishes.
Coconut block (creamed coconut)
Coconut block is a solid block of creamed coconut made entirely from fresh coconut. It can be added, in small pieces, straight into curries towards the end of cooking or can be used to make coconut milk. Discard the whiter substance that is usually found at the top end of the packaging as it is waxy and oily and has little flavouring.
Desiccated coconut is the flesh or meat of a fresh coconut that has been dried, usually by hot air, to a moisture content of about 3% (from the natural moisture content of 20%).
Because the moisture content is very low, desiccated coconut has a good storage life.
Coconut flakes are thin slices of coconut that have been dried so they have a long shelf life. They can be added directly to curries and stews and breakfast cereals. They can also be rehydrated by immersing in boiling water for a few minutes, then draining. They are not usually available from supermarkets but can be found at most Indian or Asian stores.
How to prepare a fresh coconut
- Step by step instructions for preparing a fresh coconut.
- Action coconut scraper with vacuum suction base - my latest kitchen gadget!
See it working in my 10 second video
How much grated coconut do you get from 1 coconut?
You can get more than 1.5 cups of roughly grated coconut flesh from one coconut