Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Live With Coconuts And Jack Riepe Envies Me

I had a conversation with Jack Riepe yesterday and consequently he rounded up, apparently, his coterie of neighborhood lunatics to descend on this modest page and flood the comment section. For those of you who have not seen riepe's comment cohorts they are something to behold. That being the case I figured I might as well hold this essay over a day in the hope the fumes from the comment section will dissipate into the ether and not into my pink clad iPad. I encourage you to go to his website and order several copies of his book, at I have ordered my copies and look forward to reviewing it here when it arrives. His previous effort was a great read and he assures me this new book is his best effort yet.

One thing I didn't do properly when I was preparing for Tropical Storm Isaac was to knock down my coconuts before the strong winds arrived.

My home is surrounded by mature trees loaded with nuts and in a storm they can become lethal missiles.

I lack the strength agility and skill to climb a coconut tree like one sees in residents of other Caribbean islands so about seven years ago I popped down to the hardware store and bought one of the best most reliable tools ever:

It extends about twelve feet and as hard as it is to wield at that length, this venerable tool can still cut down the nuts from a great distance and I'm lucky because my home has a wide balcony wrapping the entire house. The wide wood balcony makes it easy to put up hurricane shutters and to trim encroaching trees.

I am not a fan of power tools as they need care and maintenance and they make noise and they smell too. So instead I use a machete. I don't care for sports either so we have no need of TV reception which leaves me behind in the red blooded masculinity stakes. Instead I wield a machete and I have a whetstone to keep a blade on the big knife.

Coconuts aren't native to the Keys but they are ornamental and tourists expect to see them in these sub-tropical islands. They produce tons of fronds and lots of nuts when mature. Coconuts in the wild don't look much like the brown hairy orbs you can buy in first world supermarkets.

I like to drink from my nuts while working in the heat and to do that I rest the coconut on a brick and hack the pointy end with the machete. The coconut comes from the tree wrapped in resilient fibers which cover the nut and the meat inside the hard shell. In decades past copra, the white meat was preserved to make coconut oil which has fallen into disfavor in much of the first world.

The brown nut is hidden inside the fiber. Normally I clip the fibrous covering from the pointy end and cut the nut to access the water inside the meat. For clarity I've stripped the outer fiber from this entire nut:

Inside you'll find maybe half a pint of water and it tastes sweet and refreshing. I've tried mixing it with ice and rum or vodka or gin but I find it tastes best direct from the nut.

The fresh meat is sweet and very filling. For those that care you can grate it and dry it and call it copra. Below we see a professionally trimmed tree, as ordered by some snowbird sitting out hurricane season Up North.

I've been told that cutting all the nuts at once off a tree can weaken the growth of the trunk leading to bendy weak spots in the tree, like this:

In the event I've got some time before the next storm to cut my coconuts down but I'll probably procrastinate a bit before I deal with them. That's living with coconuts.

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