The coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm. While on the tree, coconuts are protected by a fibrous husk that is 2 to 6 inches thick, called the pericarp. Beneath this fibrous husk is a very hard, thin brownish shell that has to be broken open to reach the pulp, or nut, that adheres to its interior walls. The cavity at the center of the fruit is filled with a sweet, refreshing opalescent white liquid known as ‘’coconut water’’. Coconut milk is produced by crushing the pulp.
Fresh coconut is high in fiber and is a good source of potassium but also contains saturated fats. Coconut is said to be laxative and diuretic. Like all nuts, it is high in fat and calories, so it is best consumed in moderate quantities.
To open a coconut, start by piercing holes in the soft areas at the top of the shell (the ‘’eyes’’) with a pointed instrument (a corkscrew, for example). Pour the water inside the shell into a container, then break the outside of the shell in half by turning the coconut slowly and hitting it about one third of the way down (just below the eyes) with a hammer or a heavy knife. Remove the white pulp, which will be more or less difficult, depending on the ripeness of the coconut.
To make coconut milk, mix 4 ounces (118 ml) of grated unsweetened coconut and 1 cup (250 ml) of hot water, milk or coconut water in a small saucepan. Cover the saucepan and let the mixture simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, pressing on the coconut to extract as much liquid as possible.Shrimp in Coconut Milk (4 servings)