COCONUT HARVEST DAY 2015: A DEJA VU OF SPIKELESS COCONUT HARVEST IN 2014
“It was deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra used to say.
I was amazed when I realized this morning the “coincidence” of having the same coconut cutter to do the job on the same tree on the same day of the year – Aug 29. I swear, I had no idea until just now, when I posted this comment on FB.
The only difference – it is not a Labor Day weekend this year.
Oh, there is one other difference. We are expecting two hurricanes to come calling on the Hawaiian islands next week. So cutting the coconuts before they arrive is even more important than boarding the windows.
Because in hurricane force winds, big and ripe coconuts like these become canon balls that can drive not just through windows but even the walls of a house. And since the hurricanes are coming from the east, and the coconut tree is directly east of our house, you can put the two and two together and figure out what the likely target of these canon balls would have been.
“That’s smart – that we are doing it now, ” David, my coconut man, observed before starting the job this morning.
“I am afraid I can take no credit,” I said. “I had no idea about the hurricanes when I called you a few days ago.”
But my Spirit guides evidently did.
“So thank you, one and all!” 🙂
KEEPING ONLY A SMALL SHARE OF HARVEST
Oh, by the way, for those of you who might be interested how the coconut trade works here on Maui, the owner pays a modest fee in cash to the coconut man. But the cutter makes most of his money from reselling the coconuts.
In my case, I figure that this year this single tree yielding a harvest of about 150 coconuts. I only asked David to leave me about 20 of them, of which I was going to give away 10 to friends and neighbors.
When I returned from running my errands in town, I saw that David had left me about 30 of them. So maybe we had even more than 150 this year? Or maybe he did it because I also gave him some of my sugar cane which I cut this morning, and about 20 pounds of Lilikoi (passion fruit in Hawaiian), also fresh off the vines this morning.
But cares what the reason was? The main thing is that none of our coconuts will go to waste. And that they will help generate a little commerce and joy for some residents of this beautiful island.
Ever heard of a spikeless coconut harvest? We have not, until this year. By not using spikes on shoes to climb the tree, the coconut palm trimmer does not hurt the tree, only gives it a haircut. A “buzz” in our case.
Take a look at the same scene exactly one year ago – to the day…
AT TWENTY MINUTES PAST SUNSET ON A FULL MOON DAY
Relaxing on the lanai (deck) of the Rainbow Shower in Maui – after a hard day’s work at “farmer’s yoga.” 🙂
Beautiful gentle light. Those “mountains” in the distance are really clouds. Though some of them could be actually merged with the West Maui Mountains and the island of Molokai.
Not knowing which is which only adds to the mystery and magic of this sunset.
No mystery about what those big leaves on the left are. They are a part of our banana grove just in front of the lanai.
UPDATE SEPT 1, 2015
COCONUT HARVEST: THE REST OF THE STORY
For those of you who do not live in Hawaii or the tropics elsewhere, and may think that coconuts grow in Safeway or Whole Foods stores, or magically appear as already processed toppings in birthday and wedding cakes or ice cream, here’s now the “rest of the story” of my coconut harvest 2015.
For the last three days, I have been eyeing that pile of coconuts on the ground outside our garage with certain amount of apprehension. Even after I had given many away, some 20 of them remain for me to process.
Because I know from past experience how much work lies yet ahead. And this year, with Elizabeth still being in Arizona, that means double the work for me.
In the past years, I would split the coconuts, shuck them, clean and then bring them to the kitchen for Elizabeth to start using her creative culinary skills. She would turn them into roasted chips, akin to french fries, but baked, not fried. Or grind some up into a smoothie. Or make coconut popsicles. Or grind them up into a paste like butter that we would enjoy for breakfast with a Lilikoi (passion fruit) topping, which she also made after I brought them up from the gulch where the Lilikoi thrive.
And since I limit my time in the kitchen to an absolute minimum when I am a bachelor, like right now, you can see why I was looking forward to that about as much as to a tooth extraction. 🙂
But it had to be done. Because I also know that once the coconuts are cut, they go bad fairly quickly. Unless you do all these things to get them to a freezable or processable stage.
So this morning I did the first 10 of the 20 coconuts. It took me over two hours of HARD WORK just to get to the dreaded kitchen stage. Which I will leave for later this evening.
Why hard work?
Because the coconuts are as tough as any piece of wood I have ever hit with an ax. Worse, they are resilient. They give. They are wiry and flexible. So you have to keep hitting them over and over again until the finally yield and reveal their precious insides.
And if you want to get some coconut juice, you have to hit them just right… sort of to decapitate them by hitting across about 3-4 inches from the “head.” That’s so you expose the white meat but not break into it. For, if you hit it farther down into the body, you may split it alright, but you will also spill the juice into the ground.
Cut right, you open up a small hole in the meat with a knife (a big strong knife like the one you see below). Which is often also hard work. Not exactly a prescribed exercise for a pianist. 🙂
Since these were all mature coconuts, the juice was not a priority for me. Still, the first 10 yielded about a pint. Since I don’t like beer, tonight I will have a pint of chilled coconut juice instead. 🙂 You see, you have to drink the juice right away because it also goes bad quickly, even if refrigerated.
After extracting the juice, you then again split the coconut with an ax, this time longitudinally. So it would break into two halves. Like the ones you see above which I had just rinsed out with a hose.
Then you try to pry the meat from the shell using that big knife. That’s actually some of the hardest and the most dangerous work. Because the coconut is not only tough and unyielding, but also slippery. So I did my share of little nicks and cuts on my left hand when the knife skidded off the tough shell.
And then, after all is said and done, this is what you end up with. About 3 pounds of coconut meat and a pint of juice. You can see them both on display at my “work table,” the Maui trash bin just outside our garage. 🙂
Of course, the “coconut butcher” does get some dividends. Often times small piece of meat break off that are not worth processing. So I just eat them. Fresh. Unspoiled. Which is how I like them best anyway. By the time I was done this morning, I felt as if I had had a second breakfast. 🙂
Normally, this is where my work would be done. But today, I also had to rinse out the meat once again in the kitchen sink, this time manually, one little batch at a time. And then lay them out on paper towels to dry before the tonight’s roasting, or baking if you prefer. Not my idea. Elizabeth’s instructions.
Elizabeth also told me to bake them at 300F for 45 minutes. So we’ll see what happens tonight. I told her I am only doing one batch as an experiment. I will freeze the rest so she can pick up the ball from there when she returns.
And that’s the rest of my coconut harvest story.
Now I am off to Safeway and Whole Foods to buy some. [just kidding] Actually, I may drop in just to see how much they charge for coconuts and their derivatives.
EPILOGUE – Sept 2, 2015 9:45 AM
AN ALL-HAWAIIAN BREAKFAST
Finally, here’s now the epilogue of that coconut story. This morning, I roasted this batch of coconuts, having first put them through a french fry slicing utensil I bought yesterday. It took 55 minutes to roast them at 300F, the last 10 mins at 330F. My improvisation. 🙂
This is a batch of roasted coconuts which I just took out of the oven. Yummy! I had them for breakfast, along with Lilikoi (passion fruit), Guava and Bananas – all from our Rainbow Shower, Maui property – a true all-Hawaiian breakfast. And it was all FREE, not counting my labor, and also free of any animal products.
What you’re seeing here is only a small portion of the coconuts I had cleaned yesterday. Maybe a quarter. I had already put the other 3/4 in the freezer as fresh fruit.
A Facebook friend suggested I try putting some ice cream on top of these roasted coconuts. Maybe that will be my tonight’s dessert. 🙂