What Can’t Be Made From a Coconut? (VIDEO)

In Sri Lanka, food and shelter are both derived from one tree.

Coconut water is just the beginning. (Photo: The Perennial Plate)

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Have you ever tried a coconut apple? It’s one of the most decadent fruits I’ve ever tasted. Each snow-white bite is initially crisp, almost fibrous, but then melts into richness like a peach, mango or pear never could. It’s like the fruit equivalent of a pad of butter.

What is a coconut apple, you ask? It’s something that’s derived from a coconut, and the only time I’ve ever seen it was when I visited a spice farm on Zanzibar. The array of things the farmers managed to coax from the coconut trees on the property was impressive: There was coconut water and milk; coconut flesh of varying textures, ranging from the young, slippery variety to the hard, toasted meat of mature coconuts. And finally, the apple, which as far as I could tell was “made” by letting coconuts sit in a pile for an extended period of time, until the milk and meat coalesced into that alluring state.

They don’t make coconut apples at the small plantation visited by The Perennial Plate in this video, but the Sri Lankan farmers produce just about everything else imaginable with their crop—from food, drink (including boozy coconut flower beer; can we make that a thing in America too?) and oil to roofing materials and rope made from the tree’s fronds and the fruit’s hulls, respectively. The nose-to-tail treatment that pork gets in some American kitchens is somewhat similar, and that’s how Perennial Plate pitches the video to viewers. But really, it’s a good couple steps beyond that kind of waste-nothing thriftiness. This versatile tree is completely central to the life lived by this family of eight; their existence outside of Negombo would be inconceivable without it.

“The coconut is very useful to us,” one woman tells the camera. “It has so many uses, from the root to the top. Nothing is left behind.” I’m not about to trade my shingled roof for coconut thatch, but her and her family’s ability to make so much form one plant is both fascinating and inspiring.

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