For all that I thought I knew, I actually had no idea. My quest to go ‘Coconuts in Hawaii’ unveiled the legacy of this precious and most versatile plant.
A Little History of Coconuts in Hawaii
If I were stranded on a desert island with only one plant, I now know without a doubt it should be a coconut palm.
The Coconut Palm is found in all tropical and subtropical regions 25 degrees north and south of the equator. Its distribution includes most of the world’s tropical islands and coastal regions. It is assumed that over 4,500 years ago, migrating Polynesians likely carried select aboriginal coconut species with them on their ocean-going canoes. Thanks to them, coconuts in Hawaii are now an icon.
The Hawaiian translation for coconut palm is Kumu Nui, Kumu meaning ‘source’ and nui ‘great’, so literally ‘the great source’. And while it’s not technically a nut, it’s also not a fruit or a seed. Where did I learn such a great fact about coconuts in Hawaii? From the most knowledgeable ‘nut’ I have ever met.
Living the Coconut Dream
Ryan Burden is living the dream. Tucked away in the lush Maui rainforest of Haiku you’ll find a LOT of roosters. You’ll also find the extremely well designed eden of Coconut Information Farm & Cooking School. Built from the ground up by a self-proclaimed fruit geek, Ryan’s passion for all things coconut is absolutely infectious.
As Ryan so eloquently puts it, “where coconuts in Hawaii were once a pillar of sustainability, they are most often regarded as landscape plants- symbols of the perfect vacation.” While it’s true that palm trees swaying in the breeze are vacay inducing imagery, there is so much more to them than most of us could even fathom.
Oh so trendy, the coconut has found its way into the aisles of our grocery stores in a great variety of forms. What’s crazy is that although Hawaii offers the ultimate environment for growing coconuts, we cut coconuts in Hawaii down to protect our noggins and instead import 90% of our food. Thanks to people like Ryan of Coconut Information and many others (see ‘eating local in Hawaii’) we are learning to look back to the land and the sea for our food. A more knowledgeable approach to local food appreciation and production is emerging as a result.
Not All Coconuts Are Created Equal
Choosing the best coconut in Hawaii depends on preference. Do you seek post snorkel tour hydration or a hearty snack? Either way, it’s the age or ‘maturity’ of the coconut that determines ideal use. Perhaps most convenient of all is a coconut’s ability to reproduce simply by falling to the ground or washing ashore and being left to sprout a new tree.
Where to find coconuts in Hawaii, Maui style:
- At the local Farmer’s Market you can have coconuts opened, then return after the water is consumed to have them cracked open for that glorious meat
- Buy them whole at Maui’s best little health food store, Mana Foods, in the surf town of Paia
- Take a coconut cooking class at Coconut Information on Maui’s North Shore. Recipes from Coconut Information’s cooking classes range from Coconut Ice Cream to Coconut Noodles and even Coconut Gravy
- The Coconut Caboose parks in the viewpoint pullout at Honolua Bay, West Maui
- Choice Health Bar serves up fresh local coconut water at three locations on Maui
- Have them served at your special event. The Catered Coconut serves up fresh coconuts at the live action chopping station to bring you a tropical entertainment element and the choice refreshment of the islands
Not on Maui? No worries! Coconut Information also offers online cooking classes so you can get your virtual dose of paradise while funding Ryan Burdens next coconut research adventure (to the Philippines).
A New Appreciation
All hail the Coconuts in Hawaii and their endless bounty. The quest for sustainability, vitality and resurrection of culture lies in this truly magical plant. A coconut can feed a family, the tree can provide shade and erosion control. Cut the tree down and it becomes a home. The dry husk is used to make rope, baskets, brushes and brooms. It fruits in rhythm with the moon, is one of the healthiest natural food sources on earth and it just happens to taste absolutely delicious 🥥