The Coconut – A Caribbean Super Food

makerel-run-down-in-coconut
Makerel run-down in coconut milk.
makerel-run-down-in-coconut
Makerel run-down in coconut milk.

By Minna LaFortune

 News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. April 22, 2016: The coconut has undoubtedly become one of the Caribbean’s super food. The ‘super nut’ found in coconut is used in Caribbean cuisines and across the world.

The coconut tree is a member of the family Arecaceae. It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which, botanically, is a drupe, not a nut.

Research studies suggest that cytokinins (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) in coconut water showed significant anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects. The kernel is an excellent source of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc.

It is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.

Coconut meat and water contain a very good amount of potassium. 100 g of fresh meat contains 356 mg% or 7.5% of daily required levels of potassium.

Coconut is eaten as a snack and used to cook in various ways. It is even used in body care products in the Caribbean and now across the U.S. The important saturated fatty acid in the coconut is lauric acid. Lauric acid increases good-HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. HDL is a high-density lipoprotein, which has beneficial effects on the coronary arteries by preventing vessel blockade (atherosclerosis). Physicians recommend high HDL to total cholesterol levels in the blood for the same reason.

As a child I saw my mother use the coconut in many ways.  It is one food item that as we grew into adulthood to respect for its nutritional values and delicious taste as well as the versatility it adds to our meals.

Coconuts can be used right from the shell or used in both dehydrated or powdered and sweetened form. In any form, it is free from trans-fatty acids.

The water from coconut makes a thirst quenching drink especially on a hot day. Its mineral content and natural sugars provides the body with an instant boost of energy and hydrates the body also.

The milk from the coconut is used in Rice and Peas dishes, desserts, breads, ital stews, curry sauces and porridges in Caribbean cuisine. In Jamaica, it is also used to make Run Dung, which is salted mackerel simmered in reduced coconut milk with onions, tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper and black pepper.

The flavor that is derived from the coconut milk can only be described as “rich and flavorful.”

Grated coconut is also used to add flavor and texture in desserts, breads, such as puddings, blue draws, cakes, tarts, and candies.

It is difficult to name  the  dishes that I like the best with coconut as an ingredient , because they all taste so great!

Coconut oil is the cooking oil that literally was used and is still being used to cook the meals of  generations of Caribbean nationals for hundred of years!

The reason for this is because coconuts were plentiful and accessible. The oil which is easy to make was made in homes by the bottles and sold in the markets to individuals.

From the coconut trees that once lined the terrain of the Caribbean region so it became the cooking oil of choice, and the flavor that it gave to the meals. As we say in Jamaica – “It’s good caan dun’.”

Many of the coconut trees over a period of several years in the Caribbean died from diseases and the “new” knowledge that coconut oil was not good for our health led to a decline in usage.

However in recent years coconut oil has become the go-to oil the world over! What changed?  I am still waiting for an explanation.

One of my favorite dish in which coconut milk is used is Mackerel Run Dung. Here is my recipe. Bon Appetite!

INGREDIENTS:

4 Cups coconut milk

1/4 Cup coconut oil

2 Cloves garlic, chopped

1 Large onion, chopped

2 Large tomatoes, chopped

1/2 Teaspoon black pepper

4 Whole pimento berries

1/2 Teaspoon scotch bonnet pepper, (deseed and chopped)

2 Pounds pickled mackerel, soaked, boiled and  cut in small pieces.

METHOD

Bring coconut milk to a boil and allow to reduce by half.

In a separate saucepan, heat Coconut Oil and sauté chopped garlic, onion, tomatoes Add Black Pepper, pimento berries and chopped scotch bonnet pepper.

Mix well and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour in the reduced coconut milk, then fold in the flaked mackerel.

Stir lightly and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

 Serve with boiled banana, yam and dumplings.

 

minna-la-fortune
EDITOR’S NOTE: Minna LaFortune is a trained Caribbean caterer and also president, Society for the Advancement of the Caribbean Diaspora (SACD). Check out her food group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/bestfoodscaribbean/