Thor Heyrdahl carried coconuts with him on his famous voyage across the Pacific Ocean on his raft the Kon-tiki. Coconuts kept in baskets and away from the sea water remained edible and capable of germinating after many months. But the rest of his supply, kept below deck in seawater, were all ruined. He stated unequivocally that no coconut can float over sea faster than a balsa raft moves with the wind behind it. In other words, there was no way a coconut bouncing along the waves from Indonesia would not be ruined well before it reached a shoreline thousands of miles away. So it seems there might be some credence to the theory that the spread of coconut palms was deliberately facilitated by humans in their trans-Pacific adventures. Of course, this would make sense, given the value of these trees in supporting all facets of their lives! The travelers needed to insure they would have their ‘tree of life’ to sustain them in any newfound lands!
What do we do with coconut now in the 21st century? We may not need the tree for basic shelter and we may prefer to use stronger materials than palm leaves to protect us from the elements. But the nutritional value of coconut flesh and water has become well known and has inspired us to find many different ways in which to incorporate them into our diets.
Coconut oil is popular for frying; coconut meat is used fresh or dried in cooking, and desiccated coconut (and the milk made from it) is used as flavoring in savory dishes and used in all kinds of nutrition bars and desserts.
Aside from enhancing flavors in our cuisine, what are the benefits of using desiccated coconut?