Yesterday I heard my first Christmas carol at a shop decorated with trees and ornaments. They must feel they need to start early because it’s hard to get into the mood for Halloween, let alone Christmas, when the leaves don’t change color and fall, and morning reaches 70°F by 8 am.
A reader recently asked me what autumn is like in Hawai’i. The first sign of fall is the report that the first humpback whales are back. I know a spot on the west side of the island where I am guaranteed to see them from the highway. I’ll be going soon. The weather is a bit cooler at 6 am so I’m back to wearing pants and a sweatshirt for that first hour writing out on the lanai. Dianne and I started going to the Honoka’a pool again. We both found the 10 am Water Aerobics time confining and inconvenient. Then it hit us: we know the routine, so we can go anytime! In summer we would never go in the afternoon as we’d fry in the intense sun. But in fall the afternoon is very pleasant and so is the pool.
The avocado tree in my backyard is coming to the end of her bounty. In the thick of summer we’d find 15 or more avocados a day on the ground. Now we’re down to one, maybe two. It’s time for the old generous tree to rest. We’ve also had plentiful bananas with two bunches ripening one after the other. And this year we finally have starfruit again. In 2010 the little tree was loaded. Then it produced nothing for the last two years.
So Kim and Thomas removed the big bush that overshadowed it. Now it’s getting sun, and the starfruit are popping out all over. I hope they will still be abundant when Jade comes home for Christmas break. Meanwhile I’m bringing starfruit to share at yoga instead of avocados.
I’m not sure when our morning yoga transformed to a coffee-klatch. But Anita is all about providing sustenance for us body, mind and spirit. So after an hour of yoga on Monday mornings, she brings out dainty cups of organic coffee for each of us poured from her small pink Hello Kitty thermos. At first it was just the coffee and a few minutes of chatting before dashing off to start our day. Then she began to bring humus, usually a hot variety that she’s made, gluten-free crackers, and some sort of fruit, often orange, banana, or apple slices. It’s such a nice little feast.
Over coffee and snack we swap recipes, news, and observations about life. The recipes are mostly healthy, and we’re always interested in what Anita’s added to her humus this day. The news is often personal, and our observations and politics lean liberal. Only one in the group is a regular reader of my blog, so I get to tell them about what’s happening with the GMO debate at the county council.
Anita also brings fresh organic chicken eggs from her neighbor, at $4/dozen. It’s so convenient to get my eggs from her.
Many of us share produce at yoga. Besides my avocados and starfruit, Louli brings macadamia nuts she has collected, including from the big mac tree outside the yoga studio. She takes them someplace for cracking. Umm, they are so fresh. Tina brings coconut pieces, sometimes raw, sometimes toasted. She gets them from a guy who travels around the island selling coconuts. I asked her how she gets into them. “My son,” she said.
With eleven coconut trees in my yard, I have coconuts too, but didn’t have a clue how to get at the meat. (Why do they call it meat? It’s a plant!) So Rachel offered to teach me. I took her up on it. The following week she showed up at yoga with her machete and followed me home after class. It’s basically whack away until you get the knife embedded and then pound it on a rock or something hard until the outer hull splits. I can see how an iron wedge would be helpful, if we could only find the five we own but that are lost in the carport. I gave her three coconuts in exchange for the lesson. “Teach a man to fish” and all that. Once the hull was off, I still had to get into the little fibrous ball and dig out the meat. I toasted some of the coconut and found that even Faye liked it. Personally I prefer it raw, but you have to eat it fairly quickly (couple days) as it gets a slimy covering otherwise.
Thursday yoga is a different crowd including some guys. This is gentle yoga with an emphasis on breathing (pranayama) and muscle strengthening. The class is later in the day, so no coffee, but we still have fruit and sometime humus, and we swap whatever extra we have as fall settles in. Mitch and Dianne bring lemons and praying hands bananas, I bring oranges and starfruit, and the lilikoi (passion fruit) is starting to ripen in some folks’ yards. All we need is a place to gather to swap it, and Anita’s classes take care of that. I am so grateful to her for starting the tradition and to the people in her the classes for adding their own touches. With all this natural bounty, who needs Halloween candy?
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Diane – thought I’d share the following from my sons blog on making coconut oil [having read about the coconuts you have].
How to Make Coconut Oil—Yapese Style
Posted on August 10, 2013 by kellylupo
Step one: Find yourself a very knowledgeable older Yapese lady to take you under her wing and train you in all things Yapese. Mary—check!
Step two: Collect coconuts. (This is not as simple as one might think, as our neighbors Stan and Sheryl found out. After scraping out all their coconuts, Mary informed them gently that they had scraped the wrong coconuts.) Mary took us into the bush where we collected coconuts that had fallen already. Some of them fell long enough ago that by this point they were sprouting. Regardless, the trick to knowing if the coconut will suit our purposes is to take these coconuts and shake them; if the coconut still contains liquid, it will suffice. (I am pretty sure that we collect these coconuts because they are fully ripened: they contain a very thick layer of meat within.)
Step three: Husk the coconuts. The husk of these coconuts was medium to dark brown and one to three inches thick. The coconut seed (the hard round shell) is located at one end of this husk, which appears larger and comes to a point, while the other end, where the coconut attached to the tree, has a flattened top. If the coconut has sprouted, the shoot pierces through the husk at this flat end. Mary has a metal pole like spear firmly in the ground at a 45-degree angle, with the end cut sharply at an angle. To begin husking, pierce the husk nearer the flat end of the coconut, and using your body weight thrust the coconut downward, under the pole. Rotate the coconut three or four inches and repeat until the husk is entirely peeled off the seed. Repeat this process for as many coconuts as you plan to use. (We husked ten coconuts.) Coconut husks are then used in many ways—they can be dried out and used as charcoal for grilling or they could be chopped into small bits and thrown into garden soil to retain moisture.
Step four: Splitting the coconuts. In order to split the coconut, one holds the coconut in your non-dominant hand and a large, sharp machete in the other. (This step is potentially the most dangerous, as if using a spear in the last was not dangerous enough.) Line up the machete with the center of the coconut and strike the coconut swiftly and with power while maintaining firm control over the machete. Rotate the coconut until you have cracked the coconut all the way around; your aim is to create two even halves with straight edges (this will make the next step all the easier). At some point when cracking the shell, the water will be released from within. If you wish to collect the water for drinking, have a pitcher or bucket handy; either way, it is best to do this in an area you do not mind getting wet. But be aware, as Mary informed us, the water from every coconut has a different taste and when mixing them together the taste will be very strange.
Step five: Scraping the meat. We used Mary’s wathngeg or goy, which is essentially a stool with a scraping tool protruding from one side; the tool is flat and round with short, sharp spikes protruding from two-thirds of the circumference. Straddling this tool, take one coconut half and grip with both hands; have a large bowl placed beneath the tool to catch the shavings. I found it easiest to begin the scraping by working down the edges, and then moving to the center of the shell, which is the easiest to scrape. Try to keep from scraping the actual shell into your bowl of meat; this is very noticeable when done because the meat is white and the shell is brown, not to mention the sound scraping the shell makes. There is an art or rhythm to scraping as well, which Mary tried to impart on us. At one point she came from her house and simply said that she heard us scraping and it was wrong; she showed us again and had us listen to it—I think we improved. (It is very quiet here in the village of Nimar, and Mary can hear everything—for example, she knows who is home by the sound of the footsteps in the house.) Scraping all 20 halves was quite time consuming and only went by as fast as it did thanks to all four guys in the house taking turns; I would not recommend attempting this volume alone. The scraping process can also prove dangerous, if when scraping the coconut slips past the tool, one could end up slicing a hand or wrist.
Step six: Kneading the scraped meat. Mary instructed us to add just a bit of water to the meat (maybe a cup or so) and then to knead the meat scrapings, just as one would any dough. She also told us that the outer islanders knead the coconut by placing one hand, fingers spread, in the bowl at an angle and grab a handful of coconut in the other and press it into the back of the hand and push down towards the fingers. I found the squeezing with both hands more efficient. I am not sure how she gauged that we had kneaded enough; we probably did it for 20 minutes or so, at which time there was visible coconut milk while kneading.
Step seven: Squeeze out coconut milk. For this process you need some sort of screen or mesh fabric. Over a clean bowl or pot, place a handful of kneaded coconut at a time into your screen or mesh, squeeze and wring from it as much coconut milk as possible. (For this, recruit whoever you know with the most hand strength.) Simply repeat this process, collecting the dry coconut shavings elsewhere or disposing of it (Mary collected it for the chickens, and I am sure you could bake with it as well). Once you have squeezed out all your coconut milk it is best to run it through another screen or fine strainer, to take out any debris that may have fallen in.
Step eight (optional): Freeze the milk. At this point Mary told us that we can freeze the coconut milk, which will separate the milk from the water, and once the milk part is frozen we could simply poke a hole into it and drain the water from it. We had made around six or seven cups of coconut milk (I think), and it did not freeze in time for us to do this, so we left it in the freezer all night and failed to drain the water as she had directed. She told us that it was no matter and we would just boil it off, the freezing process was just a way to save time.
Step nine: Boil the milk. Place your pot of coconut milk on medium high heat and wait. Keep the temperature this high for quite some time, even once boiling; there is a lot of water that needs to come out. After a while you will begin to notice some oil forming on top of the milk, which is beginning to thicken and curdle. Keep the milk boiling at a pretty high heat still. Eventually the milk will start to really clump and begin to look like ground beef, separating to the bottom while the oil gathers on top. (At this point I think that we turned the temperature down to medium.) Throughout this process I stirred very occasionally and carefully, as the oil will spit. You can eventually eat what separates out from the oil, though like anything that was essentially fried in oil for over an hour, it does not sit the best in ones stomach. Just to give it a taste we removed most of it when it was very dark brown, just before it began to burn. Mary had us continue to cook the oil a bit longer until it was just a very light brown, she said this makes the oil last longer. Then we let the oil sit and cool until we bottled it (using old vodka bottles and a banana leaf as a funnel. We made approximately 450mL of oil from these ten coconuts.
Coconut oil has many uses; it is especially good for your skin and hair. Mary told us that it is wonderful for after sunburn. She has also told us that we could put the Noni tree leaves into it, which gives it a different scent, but then the oil is good for sore muscles. The Noni tree leaf is also used as a tea to calm the stomach (which Lupo has now become very acquainted with), among many other uses in local medicine. I think we will try this for our next batch. It is a fairly involved process, but it was fun to learn about all things coconut, and to have our own homemade coconut oil is pretty neat. Not to mention, the scent that takes over the house when boiling the milk is just remarkable—a nutty, rich smell that reminded me of French toast; and this is the scent that our oil retains also, which none of us are complaining about.
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WOW! That’s some process. I think I’ll continue to buy coconut oil at the health food store. But I can appreciate it more now. Thanks for sharing this Jean.
your blog is fun ~sweet ~REAL~ like YOU
i am honored to be part of your life and love here in hawaii and for-ever. weeeeee