North to South: The summer of 1977 was a pivotal year for me as a young man. We moved to Bermuda and settled into our new home at Sunset Cottage in Mangrove Bay. Being from a military family, we moved from Masset on Haida Gwaii which was a tiny radio listening post of the Canadian Forces that was used to keep an ear on our Soviet neighbours during the Cold War. From some of these Northern island beaches, one could see the mountains of Alaska. This British Columbia, Masset posting was considered a hardship posting, and as a result, it was common for people to choose and receive the posting to the tropical waters of Bermuda as a reward for doing so.
On our first day in Bermuda as a ten-year-old boy, I remember a day of marvels. I saw my first palm tree and it happened to be a coconut palm. Once we were all settled in, we took a walk as a family down to the Mangrove Bay Beach. The decision had been made before we left the house that we were all going to swim in the warm waters. The water was amazing and the view of the harbor was even more so. I kept turning back towards shore and was mesmerized by all of the coconut trees lining the edge of the water. This was the start of a lifelong fascination with coconuts.
Tropical Awakening: During our two-year stay in Bermuda, we learned to snorkel and sail. It became second nature for me to wake up early in the morning after a windstorm and walk the shoreline along the bay searching for coconuts that had been shaken lose by the winds. Every coconut found was treated like a small treasure. I would carry them home, sometimes one, two or three at a time. Three could prove to be a challenge. Once home, I would open them with great ceremony and proclaim the coconut water and meat inside better than the last.
In 1979, we moved back to Canada to a place called Holberg. It was a remote Canadian armed forces radar station on the Northern tip of Vancouver Island. Holberg was situated in a dense West Coast Rainforest. It was definitely not a place to find coconuts. I would often hike out to the white sandy beaches of San Josef bay in the Cape Scott Provincial Park. It was a twenty-minute ride to the trailhead from our home. My snack of choice would be a Bounty Chocolate Bar which is a beautiful combination of coconut wrapped in chocolate. I would lie in the warm sandy beach and eat my bar and imagine coconut palms lining the beach back in Bermuda. I could almost hear the sound of the wind through the coconut fronds.
Coconut Facts: Fast forward 35 years. I have recently married and we have travelled to Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Morocco and Indonesia in the last couple of years. I have learned, while spending a month in Indonesia that this country is the number one exporter of coconuts in the world. Indonesia exports over 18 million tons of coconuts per year and I am guessing that they consume at least the same locally. I felt that I had finally found coconut heaven.
The coconut originated in two parts of the world in India and Southeast Asia. As the migration of people advanced throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the Pacific or Southeast Asian coconut has been cultivated all over the Pacific. The Indian coconut has made it through the Indian Ocean and down to parts of South America and the Caribbean through trade. The Indian coconut is even found in the southern tip of Florida where a ship wrecked that was carrying over twenty thousand of them in the late eighteen hundreds near the now famous place called Palm Beach.
I have learned over the last five years that the coconut has many nutritional and health benefits from its thirst-quenching water to its delicious milk used in curries and desserts. The use of the coconut oil has become all the rave, but if you ask any person who has grown up on the coconut, they have known of these properties since they were very young. The benefits of the oil have been passed down from generation to generation.
Shelley and I have discovered over the years that dairy does not agree with us and we now live a dairy-free life. We have been using the coconut milk as a substitute for dairy and pretty much everything. The oil is used for cooking and is well-known for its high energy value. We have basically been living a paleo or ketogenic lifestyle and the coconut has become crucial for us as a food source. Shelley and I both love a massage and I found that using virgin coconut oil is one of the best oils for massaging.
In a Nutshell: The world would not be as as it is today without the coconut. The European explorers would have found empty islands throughout the South Pacific in the eighteenth century once they started exploring South Pacific. No one would have been able to make the long distances across the ocean without the hydration of the coconut water or the nutrition of the viable fruit meat that it provided once planted on new shores.
The coconut, without a doubt, is one the most important fruits mankind has ever known. Without it, half of the world as we know it today may have been populated differently. The coconut still seems to be an important fruit, both culturally and economically. It is nice to see that most of the world has come to understand what a ten-year old on the Bermudian shores loved about the coconut at first glance. Now that I am fifty years old, I still feel the same way and enjoy coconut as part of my daily diet. My favourite new coconut delight is coconut ice cream made from coconut milk that we make in our brand new ice cream maker.