I am living in Costa Rica doing a work-work-exchange, and in addition to teaching yoga it has magically become my role to supply the team with healthy elixirs and foods, ideally those that can be harvested off the land.
This allows me to learn the deepest parts of living the pura vida life, the most holistic and organic approach to life I've ever experienced. It is a bit more work to produce the food than I am used to obviously, but with a totally different life-style it doesn't feel time-consuming. So instead of working to make money for organic foods, I am just working to find them and get them into their most ideal edible form!
It's so beautiful and I feel so connected to the Earth through knowing exactly where the 80-90% majority of my foods come from. It can be tedious, or meditative depending how you look at it. But this to me is an ideal of how humans should live that everyone should at least experience. It is ironic to me that basic survival skills (city OR wildlife) are not taught in school and I am basically learning how to be more and more self-sufficient, not relying on produce that is increasingly GMO, non-organic, expensive, BUT JUST FINDING IT ON THE GROUND. Lol. And coming from the desert this is a pretty big deal.
Coconut can be made into lots of things. Obviously the young green ones are good for a very sweet and electrolyte-rich water. The more mature brown ones still give some water but not as much, as that water fed the growing coconut meat. The coconut meat can be used for cooking, or you can grate it off and squeeze to make coconut milk, and that coconut milk refrigerated will eventually separate into coconut oil if you don't drink it up in time!
I've learned all these processes here at Dolphin Quest Costa Rica. For the coconut water, all you need to do is pop a hole or slit to drink the water out of, or chop off one end. The mylk is a LONG process that brings me so much appreciation for store-bought coconut mylk, even though the flavor of store bought cannot even come close to matching up to this. When you've put your blood, sweat and tears into making something delicious and then you're able to sweeten your cup or Costa Rican coffee with it the next morning - that is Heaven.
Green coconuts are for drinking - we had to hit these down with a big stick, and they kept falling into the crevass so the dogs would have to get them for us. The dogs like to eat coconut but also LOVE playing with them, using as a chew toy for teething, and can even husk the brown ones for you! after drinking the water of the green coco, there is a bit of meat you can eat too.
But to make a coconut mylk, you start by husking one of the big mature brown coconuts. Here there is a wedge-shaped piece of wood stuck in the ground that is used for husking off the thick outer shell.
Once you get down to the smaller round coconut like you'd buy in stores, it takes the perfectly exacted swing of the back side of a machete, around the base of the coco to get it cut in half. You get electrolytes and fuel for the work to come in the form of a small cup of coconut water!
From here the real fun (and the part I can actually do by myself) starts. There is an old, serated kitchen knife nailed to a big block of wood that I use to scrape the meat off of the coconut (haven't cooked with the meat yet as there are so many things to do with a liter of the mylk which takes a few hours for me right now, but I want to throw that into a stir fry soon).
For 6-7 cocos this grating process takes me about like 2 hours, but I am new and distracted easily so hopefully that gets faster. It comes out as juicy grated coconut which you then squeeze through a cloth to separate the milk and then you have leftover dried coconut. That part takes another hour at least and then I just sift the milk through a strainer to get the yummy, thick, sweet and nutty raw coconut milk!
So far, I've used the milk to made a coconut curry rice with black beans and brown rice, loads of ginger, red pepper, coconut mylk, pepper, yellow curry paste and katuk (the local spinach). So bomb. They also made a coconut-mylk stew, we put it on our oatmeal and in THE BEST COCO-MILK LATTE I'VE EVER HAD, and smoothies and shakes etc. It's a crucial ingredient in the noni smoothies! If you let it settle in the fridge for about 2 days, it starts to separate form 2 layers, one of them being coconut oil!
Then, we use the shells as bowls, candle holders, seed starters, etc! You can also roast mature coco's whole and THEN de-shell them for a delicious roasted coconut dinner, or take the raw meat off to make yogurt, or take the dried leftover coconut from the milk grating process to make coconut flour, granola or protein bars/cookies. ☺
AMAZING benefits of coconut milk that are so important in a tropical diet!
❤ Health: 50 percent of the fat in coconuts is lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral activities. Lauric acid is a protective fatty acid linked with improved cholesterol levels and heart health. Minerals found in coconut milk are useful for lowering blood pressure and keeping blood vessels flexible & free from plaque buildup.
Getting shredded 💪: Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) fatty acids found in coconut milk help enhance physical performance. Following exercise, coconut provides electrolytes like magnesium and potassium that help repair broken down tissue and grow back even stronger.
Stay woke, energized and hydrated 🌴: Coconut milk contains the types of MCTs that are easily used by your brain for energy. The brain is actually primarily made up of fat and relies on a steady stream of it to function. It is hydrating and helps the digestive organs function properly, which helps metabolize fat and remove waste from the body.
Poop more 💩: A well-hydrated digestive tract is important for preventing or treating constipation. Coconut milk nourishes the digestive lining, improving gut health and preventing conditions like IBS.
Manage Blood Sugar & Control Diabetes 💉: The fat content of coconut milk slows the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream, better controlling insulin levels and preventing a “sugar high” or worse, conditions like diabetes. Coconut milk’s MCTs are also a preferred source of energy for the body rather than sugar, so it's a great dessert replacement.
Prevents Joint Inflammation and Arthritis 👋: MCTs can help lower inflammation, which is associated with painful conditions like arthritis and general joint or muscle aches and pains. Coco milk in place of refined sugar especially is helpful for people with arthritis because sugar is a pro-inflammatory.
Prevents Ulcers: When rats with ulcers were given coconut milk, they experienced a reduction in the size of ulcers of about 56%. 💖
If you're not living in a place where you can just go pick up coconuts off the ground 😂 but you are excited about all the yummy benefits of drinking this magic elixir, please use the following guide to purchase a coconut milk from the store!
Look for coconut milk (ideally organic) that’s been “cold pressured,” which indicates it’s only been lightly heated and processed to remove certain bacteria but hasn’t been exposed to high heat that can deplete vitamins and minerals. Skip any coconut milk (or water) that’s flavored with juices, sweeteners, colors or other ingredients.
The primary ingredient should be 100 percent coconut milk and maybe coconut water. Some companies also add guar gum, which is a natural product used to stabilize the texture.
If you buy canned coconut milk, avoid cans made with the chemical called BPA. BPA is found in some aluminum cans and has the potential to cause certain health problems when it leashes into foods (especially foods high in acid or fat, like coconut milk).