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Opening a young coconut

There are a number of ways to get the water out of a young coconut, but it's best to be able to see the pulp inside to determine if it is a good coconut or if it has gone bad.

This method is the "easy" method and it takes longer than the "shove a knife into the top and tear off the lid" method, but it is much safer.


This is a young coconut. It doesn't look this way in nature; people shape it this way. There should be no purple spots on the bottom, and it should be heavy (compare it to others). You won't hear any water sloshing around inside if you shake it because it should be full of water.

Using a heavy-duty chef's knife, remove the husk by shaving away from you. (I like the J.A. Henckels 7" santoku hollow edge knife; got mine at Target for $32, but you can use a bigger one; some people prefer a 9" knife.)

Don't worry, no water will spill out.

You want to expose at least this amount of shell, if not a little more. It isn't necessary to go all the way to the edge though.

There's a natural round "seam" in the top that you can't see. The idea is to thrust the "heel" of the knife (the pointed part just above the handle) into the seam, and when you get it, twist the knife and the "lid" will just pop up fairly easily.

If the lid starts to separate from the shell, but you can't get it completely open with the heel of the knife, then carefully use the tip of the knife to separate it to the point where you can grab the lid with your hand and get it into the position in the next photo.

Now look at the underside of the lid; the pulp should be snow white.

If the pulp looks like this, spill it out and try and get your money back. Note: People who poke a hole in the the coconut and pour out the water into a blender and cannot see that the water is bad, often make smoothies using bad water if the pulp inside looks like this. That is why, even if you don't eat the pulp, it's best to open the coco by popping the lid so you can see if you got a bad one.

After drinking the water, some people also eat the pulp, using it in smoothies. Some do not. A very young coco will have hardly any pulp, and the little it does have will be soft. The firmer the pulp, the older the coconut is. But the pulp is almost all fat, and although non-cooked and plant-based, too much fat is too much fat. Personally, I don't find it scrumptious, so I don't eat it.

If you shaved off all the husk, this is what you'd have. And this person made a small hole just big enough for a straw, but this doesn't let you see the pulp. If you do this, and the water doesn't taste yummy, or tastes "off", toss it.

Even if you "pop the top" you can stick in a straw and enjoy. I prefer a glass straw over plastic. (Get the Decorative Dots, 9.5mm, the glass dots prevent the straw from rolling off the table.)

As the coco ages, the water turns into pulp, but the pulp is hard. This is the stage of coconut used in processed foods and candy.


Is There Formaldehyde IN Young Coconuts?
By MATT AMSDEN author of RAWvolution: Gourmet Living Cuisine

Are you one of those folks whose initial excitement in discovering Thai coconuts was quickly replaced with fear when you heard the rumor that the sweet treat is soaked in formaldehyde before reaching the United States, and that the formaldehyde got into the inside of the coconut and was in the water?

I don’t know where it started nor can I remember when I first heard it, but the rumor is certainly widespread.

I have had dozens of friends and clients ask me about it in panicked phone calls, during my raw food preparation classes, or even during visits to our café.

Some fearful raw-fooders have completely removed Thai Coconuts from their diets in response to the rumor, and there are even raw restaurants that have deleted them from their menus.

In short, we have all allowed this rumor to spread based completely on hearsay and without any definitive proof.

My wife Janabai and I love Thai coconuts and weren't willing to leave them out of our morning shakes or delete them from our café’s menu until we received definitive proof that there is formaldehyde in the coconut.

Waiting for someone else to provide such proof was getting us nowhere. We decided to find the truth, not only for ourselves but also for our customers, friends, and for those spreading fear by way of a baseless rumor.

We contacted Michelson Laboratories. Michelson is a fully accredited microbiology and chemical testing lab with over 70 highly trained specialists and technicians located in Commerce, California.

Michelson was confident that after proper testing of a sample they could tell us definitively whether or not Thai coconuts were treated with formaldehyde.

We supplied Michelson with samples from our regular stock of Thai coconuts and waited patiently as the testing process began.

As the weeks went on, Janabai and I decided that whatever the result, we would disseminate the information as widely as possible. We would either discontinue our use of Thai coconuts and warn others or dispel the myth and continue to endorse the use of Thai coconuts.

On Thursday, May 11th, 2006, we received the results from the lab. There was absolutely no indication whatsoever of formaldehyde inside the Thai coconut samples provided to Michelson Laboratories.

We were excited! Not only could we continue to enjoy Thai Coconuts but we also had definitive proof that the formaldehyde scare was nothing more than rumor.

It is my sincere hope that in the future, our raw food communities will not fall prey to lies and made-up stories. These rumors divide rather than unite and spread fear rather than information.

So everyone...rest assured.. Ain't NO FORMALDEHYDE INSIDE the coconuts sold in Asian Markets. Of course, they use chemicals to preserve the outer shells; how else are they gonna stop the coconuts from turning brown once they shave them? But it's been proven that those toxins do NOT get into the coconut meat or water.

CRAZY how a rumor can spread Nationwide without verification or substantiating proof. AMAZING!

Don's Comments:

The formaldehyde/coconut issue is an example of information that is both true and false at the same time, and it's also an example of statements being presented as the truth when there are no facts in evidence.

People hear that the coconuts are treated with formaldehyde and, assuming that the formaldehyde will therefore be in the water, circulate statements such as "I'm not going to drink the coconut water anymore because formaldehyde is a poison." And when these types of statements make the rounds, people can naturally assume that there is some kind of evidence in support of the implications that there is formaldehyde in the water.

And then there is always the possibility that these rumors also came from the sellers of organic coconuts as a way of marketing their product (which would be a shame, but human nature is what it is).

So just because A is true (cocos treated with something) doesn't mean that B must also be true (that the chemical gets into the water). And even though I'm an advocate of the philosophy of "better to be safe than sorry" I don't think it's in our best interests to merely accept a statement as the Gospel truth unless there's some kind of supporting information. Especially if when you think about it, something doesn't sound right. When I heard that the cocos were being treated to prevent the outside surface of the coco from being affected by things that would make it look unsellable, I understood the rationale for this, but didn't assume that the chemical would make its way into the water. Maybe if the coco was dipped in a tank of formaldehyde and left in it long enough, the formaldehyde would get into the water (and maybe not), but since the goal is just to protect the surface of the coco, there would be no reason to use any more formaldehyde or "dipping/spraying time" than is necessary to protect the outer surface; this just makes sense from a business perspective.

On an issue where my health is concerned, I'd like to see something that supports both the "do" and the "don't" positions... in this case, "don't consume cocos because of the formaldehyde in the water."

If you're concerned about coming in contact with any formaldehyde from the handling of the coco, simply wear kitchen gloves; I wouldn't leave the plastic on when cutting open the coco in an effort to not come in contact with formaldehyde because the plastic can be slippery, and this can increase the risk of injury when using a big sharp knife to open the coco.


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