THE COCONUT TREE

 


Coconut Plantation
 

COCONUT - A TREE OF LIFE
by
Elfrank T. Kadusale

The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a palm, the most valuable palm of the moist tropics.  Niyog for people of Luzon islands and lubi for Visayan and Mindanao natives has a swollen base, its slender, ringed trunk may reach a height from approximately 32 meters to 100 meters.  Its leatherish trunk is topped by a crown of large featherlike  of about 25 to 30 large primate leaves. Each leaf may grow to a length of at least 20 feet or 6 meters.  The leaf is consist of a petiole, strong fibrous leaf stalk and rachis, a midrib from where extend many leaflets. and the compound flower stalks from which the nuts, its fruits develop.


Coconut Fruit

Husk taken out, you have the bagol (shell) and meat

The flowering of a coconut tree usually begins when it is  7 to 10  years old.  A flower cluster, classified botanically as a spadix is produced in the axil (the angle between the upper surface of the leaf-stalk and stem) of each leaf.

As to its origin, most authorities reached a conclusion that the plant came originally from tropical Americana and reached tropics in  Pacific and its adjacent islands for some unknown reasons and  man is believed  to be the main responsible for its dispersal.

However, on its own  simple coconut tree adrift by ocean currents for many months in the sea when cast ashore is capable of producing a tree, if environmental conditions are favorable.   This is  the main mode of its propagation among the tropical island.

Tuba - coconut wine
 

Tuba wine fetching
 

Straining the collected Tuba

Coconuts may be collected after they fall, or harvesters may climb the tree about every three months to cut the ripened  fruits.  Harvesting also can be done from the ground by means of a knife attached to a long pole.

But what is exactly a lubi?

Every part of  this tree is indispensable.

Let's start with its fruit  one can eat the edible meat found inside the green nut and have a feast on Buko Salad (Native Coconut Salad) and its water which is sweet is said to be good for  those who are suffering from kidney problems.  

Uling-Charcoal from Coconut Shell

While its mature nut, the coconut husk (Filipinos used them everdependable floor polisher- some  swear its a good exercise as well) yields coir.  The Coir  is  a highly resistant fiber to water particularly to salt water thus, a good material for brushes, bags, mats, baskets, brooms, mats, placemats and other materials.

Photo: bunot.jpg- The Filipino "floor polisher"

The coconut shell is used also as manufactured charcoal for ironing and barbecue cooking (roasting of meat and fish over a charcoal fire).  On the other hand, the construction industry used the sturdy and fibrous trunk as posts and beams as building posts.


Copra.jpg (95194 bytes)

Coconut meat being dried for Copra (copra is then process into coconut oil)

One of its  famous products is the toddy, or tuba (see related story from this website) which for the native the best wine in the world when this sweet sap is distilled  and fermented it may be used as sugar and alcohol.

Suka is also a by-product of coconut. Every Filipino household knows his dish taste better with this as one of his cooking ingredients.

A Filipino mother uses the ubod or pith found in the core near the top of the tree as salad vegetable or cook them as lumpia.

Coconut Broom - Made out of coconut leaves midrib

The coconut, however,  attains great commercial value first as copra - the dried extracted meat from mature nuts; then as coconut oil- the result of copra milling; and finally, as alcohols and acids- the result of chemical processing of the oil.  It is estimated that 60 per cent of the world's coconut oil is destined for industrial use.  The remaining 40 percent is used as cooking oil, margarine, vegetable shortening.  The coconut provided the world its most popular vegetable oil.

Southern Island Oil Manufacturing in the Municipality of Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte process copra to oil

From coconut oil, fatty alcohols, and acids are extracted.  These, in turn, are utilized in many chemical products such as shampoo (gugo),  soaps, detergents, synthetic rubber, candle (scented or unscented), glycerin, hydraulic brake fluid, and plasticizer.

Coconut oil as substance contains high uric acid contents, which imparts a quick-lathering property for quick-lathering soaps.

Its oil's left over, copra meal and cake may be used as livestock fertilizer.


Coconut Milk

Coconut Water Drinks

According to a Filipiniana book, "an annual yield of 100 nuts per tree can be attained, with fifty considered as good.  The current annual yield in the Philippines, however, averages less than fifty, with yields of twenty-five to thirty nuts being common, perhaps because most of the coconut trees are very old.  Hence, experiments are being conducted to develop early-maturing, high-yielding varieties from hybrids that bear fruit after three years to replace the old, less productive trees".

This is must since Philippines, is considered to be one of the greatest earners of coconut export industry.  It supplies about one-third of the world's demand for copra and coconut oil.  While the principal importers of copra and coconut oil are U.S.A, Japan and Europe.

Coconut fiber doormat

The Arroyo administration is bent on setting up of a coco chemical industry to process coconut oil into higher value chemical preparations, for export and for domestic industry.  Another prospect being looked up to, is for the domestic coconut industry  to have a production of diesel fuel mix using the coconut oil.  Optimists believe  that there is a great possibility that through this experiment Philippines will no longer be dependent on crude oil.

Coconut Tarts

Coconut Flake filled Pastry

For now,  and for always Filipinos are singing: "Coconut nut is a giant nut, if you eat too much you  get very fat".