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I’m a coconut girl.

I remember on an early trip to Jost van Dyke, I met a woman who was just addicted to coconut water.  She walked up and down White Bay trying to find someplace she could get a fix of coconut water.  I had never had coconut water – and she was frustrated when she couldn’t find it, since, after all, she was in the Caribbean, so what the heck?? – and I didn’t understand why she was so hooked on it.  

I’d had coconut milk when I was a child and hadn’t liked it at all.  I don’t like coconut in cakes or cookies, but I do like it in Mounds and Almond Joy.  I had rum infused into a coconut at a wedding reception on St. John, and loved the idea of drinking out of a coconut with a straw, but it was waaay too strong (and if it’s too strong for me, you KNOW it’s strong.)

So on a trip to Tulum, when, after a Breakfast of Champions, one of cooks handed me a green coconut that he’d been hacking at with a machete during breakfast, I was slightly dubious.  But I was game for anything.  So I thanked him in my broken Spanish and put the straw to my lips, and…..found the bliss.

I walked down the beach sucking the last drops of water out of that coconut and craving more.  It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever tasted – pure, light, luscious, rich, gentle, sweet, tropical.  But more was not forthcoming on that trip.  I would have to wait.

Now, some have said that coconut water tastes like socks – yes, you read right, socks – but I have to disagree.  It’s really as I described it above, and the fact that it’s becoming a huge industry in the US proves it.  Even Pepsi has invested in the craze, becoming a majority stakeholder in the California-based coconut water company O.N.E.  In fact, it’s becoming so popular that the industry may already be facing supply issues.

Coconuts of different ages and from different countries offer water of different flavors – no differences so dramatic as one tasting like grapes and one tasting like tequila, but with varying degrees of sweetness and saltiness depending on their country of origin.  We will ignore the fact that coconut water is actually liquid endosperm, which makes it sound really nasty.  Instead, we will focus on the fact that it not only tastes wonderful, it’s a natural energy drink that is very high in potassium.  Move over, Gatorade.  And it can also serve as a substitute for IV hydration fluids when saline is unavailable.  Remember that if you are ever in one of those MacGyver situations on a desert island.

My second fresh dose of coconut water was on Anegada.  A gentleman was chopping the coconuts down from the trees at Cow Wreck so they didn’t fall on the heads (or the car hoods) of unsuspecting tourists, and he so kindly offered me one.  I was in double heaven – coconut water AND Cow Wreck Beach.

Now back in the mountains, far far away, I have finally started finding coconut water in the grocery stores.  The one I had today, in its little tetra bottle, wasn’t as good as I had hoped.  It had taken on some of the flavor of the packaging and perhaps preservatives that must be in there with the water itself.  (Nothing will ever replace the taste of coconut water out of its mother coconut.)  I’m using coconut shampoo and coconut lotion.  I probably walk out of the house every day practically reeking of the fruit.  But I don’t mind.  And those who catch that essence as I walk by will find themselves reminded of someplace warm and sunny that they have only imagined.

On one of my last island trips, a coconut deliberately put itself in my path at sunset.  It just floated in on the water from who-knows-where.  After a few days, my travelling companion and I decided that it wanted to be planted where it had washed ashore, and so that’s what we did on our last morning.  And so I became a proud coconut mom.

I have often wondered whether the little guy survived the ravages of the hurricane last year.  Is he still growing strong and study, taller and taller every day, near that little clump of greenery down the beach from Ivan’s? 

I think I’ll have to go back to see.

January 2011
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