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Global Feast : the Marshall Islands

Coconuts Decoded - Part 2
June 30, 2013

In part one of coconuts decoded, I wrote about the difference between old and young coconuts, how to husk them and how to make different coconuts products such as coconut juice, shredded coconut and coconut milk.

In part two, I would like to write about more unfamiliar ways of using coconuts in the Marshall Islands.

Coconut Apple (a.k.a. U in Marshallese)

When you open the seed of sprouted coconuts, you will find a pale, yellow, spongy mass called "coconut apple" inside of the coconut meat. This is the cotyledon of the embryo of the coconut seed. It begins with a tiny embryo and it develops to eventually fill the entire cavity. Marshallese call this "YU". It absorbs the coconut meat so it is sweet and the locals use this in many different ways like faux ice cream, custard like baked yu or soup.

Sprouted coconuts Marshallese boy husking the sprouted coconut
seed is out
seed is out
coconut apple or U
Coconuts Apple, in half

My new friend from Bikirin Island helped me to find a sprouting coconut, husk it and break in half to get the yu.

Coconut Sap (a.k.a. Jekaro in Marshallese)

Getting coconut sap
Sprouted coconuts Marshallese boy husking the sprouted coconut

Jekaro is a sweet sap extracted from the flowering stalk from the coconut tree. You can drink as it is. Or you can ferment this for a couple days to make a coconut sap liqueur.

Marshallese cook down unfermented sap to make a thick, golden sryrup called jekmai. If you cook even further, you eventually get a hard candy called jelinan.

Getting coconut sap
Getting coconut sap
Getting coconut sap

Use of Coconut Shell

Instead of using charcoal, Marshallese use old coconut shells for cooking outside or BBQ.

Getting coconut sap

The Marshallese also use coconuts leaves to make baskets and handicrafts. Both leaves and shells are also used to make sea walls to prevent water coming on to the land.

Getting coconut sap

I really love the way the Marshallese do not waste any part of their precious coconuts. We all should learn to appreciae the nautural resources in this way.