The coconut has always been an important part of the life of a Goan household, as food, drink or as a tool to drive mosquitoes away. But is it still held dear by everyone?
It was World Coconut Day, a day that quietly went by without much furore. In Goa, the coconut is ubiquitous. Its uses are many. There’s coconut water when you’re famished. Toddy in the morning, or in your sannas. Feni in the evening. Then there’s the coir and shells used a fuel when cooking over a woodfire stove. The oil is used for cooking, for keeping the hair strong and luscious and also can be used for a massage. Coconut is also used in so many Goan dishes that many have lost count.
This wonderful addition to our lives grows all across Goa, especially in the coastal villages where houses prided themselves on the quality of their coconuts. Every three months, they would call a padekar to get their coconuts down. Those lovely green or orange-brown nuts bouncing around a bedsheet held outstretched by members of the family, to avoid them crashing on the ground and cracking open, was a common sight ever so often in the villages in the past. It probably is the same today, but not as oft-seen as before. Many families have cut down trees, or let them slowly degrade over the years. As much as the coconut is cherished, it has also been neglected.
So, is the coconut still a regular piece of everyday life for the average Goan or have we lost that fondness for it, so used to it in our food that we don’t always recognise its importance. Leave aside the downgrading of status from a tree to regular grass, by the current government.
There’s nothing like drinking water from the coconut on a hot summer’s day, or grinding down coconut to sprinkle over a nice chilly fry, letting the sweetness add another dimension of flavour to the dish. Let Goa have the coconut for much much longer.
I didn’t realise what a treasure coconut oil can be. We use it for our hair, skin and body but hardly for consumption. You get expensive oils in the market but here we have something homegrown, which is good for health. Studies how that coconut oil can prevent Alzheimers, can reverse the effects. Start consuming more. I have friends based in Mumbai, Bangalore etc who use traditionally made coconut oil and once they use it, they love.
Nilisha Ferrao, Narla
Before the advent of industrialisation, mining or tourism, the coconut was Goa's major export. Sadly we haven't kept in tune with the changing markets and so while the price of unprocessed coconuts have crashed, the price for Coconut products have sky-rocketed. Coconut oil, vinegar, sugar, timber are just some of the industries that can be set up. If the value of the coconut tree can be brought back, Goa will be a much more prosperous place. Goa needs to set up a Coconut board just like that has been established in Kerala.
Hansel Vaz, Cazulo feni
I exercise regularly and use coconut water to replenish my body salts and fluids. Since this is a tourist state and I have my hotel on the beach belt I end up passing a vendor every couple of kilometres. A friend of mine in Kuwait recently told me he has a teaspoon of coconut oil every morning since he was diagnosed with MS and he is much better now. Now the world has suddenly realised that coconut oil is the best oil as cold press is most natural and are recommending it to everyone.
Ernesto Alvares, hotelier