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« on: May 03, 2008, 05:15:51 AM »
palm%20tree - Buko - Philippine Photo Gallery

Saturday, May 03, 2008
By Jigs Arquiza

FILIPINOS call it the “Tree of Life,” and while the coconut tree and the coconut have a lot of non-culinary uses, its basic property is as a food item.

People have been eating coconuts for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, and that said, it has been discovered that the coconut can be prepared and eaten in as many different ways.

Chop off one end of a fresh, green coconut and drink the coconut water inside. It should be slightly sweet; the water of an older, yellow coconut is somewhat bitter. Be careful, though, as coconut water can have a laxative effect.

Break open the coconut and you will discover that it contains a white, fleshy substance. This coconut meat can be eaten as is, or grated finely, then used as a topping for any of the various native delicacies like puto and kutsinta.

The grated coconut meat, when mixed with warm water, gives you coconut milk, which is used a lot in Asian cuisine. Dishes like the Malaysian rendang, and some versions of curry make use of coconut milk to give the dishes an exotic taste. Palm wine, toddy or arrack commonly called tuba or lambanog in the Philippines, are made from the sap of the coconut palm. When the coconut sap is fermented for a long time, coconut vinegar is produced.

The buds of adult coconut plants (i.e. the fibrous pith from the central core of the coconut tree) are also very edible, and are very popular not only in the Philippines but all over the world. The lumpiang ubod, or native spring roll, makes use of this particular ingredient. The bud, usually called “heart-of-palm,” are also used in salads. One major drawback, however, is that harvesting the bud usually kills the plant.

The meat of the coconut is also made into macapuno, composed of strips of coconut meat in sweet syrup. (Macapuno is a mutant variety of coconut; it has thick, very soft meat.) There are also other sweets made from coconut, among them the nata de coco, a sweet, jelly-like concoction, and bukayo, made from sweetend coconut meat. Macaroons, a popular snack in the Philippines, is also made from shredded coconut meat. The traditional buko pie, a favorite Pinoy snack, is made using coconut meat stuffed in pastry.

Another popular FIlipino snack, the maja blanca, is made from coconut cream. The Chinese and Thais also have the coconut pudding, which is very similar to the maja blanca. The favorite Pinoy popsicle, fondly called ice buko, is also made from coconut water and strips of coconut flesh.

According to food enthusiast Myra Magsaysay-Sun, Filipinos in olden times used not only coconut meat in cooking chicken binakol, they also used the coconut shell itself as a container in which to cook the ingredients. Some enterprising individuals and establishments serve coconut water in the shell itself, while others use the shell to serve ice cream as well as cocktails such as the famous pina colada, made using rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice.

Filipinos, for the most part, probably take the coconut tree form granted.

Some people, though, consider the coconut an exotic treat, giving them a taste of the tropics. As for the coconut itself, whether the tree or the fruit, it stands out as one of the most useful things that God has put on this earth.

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