Don't Be A Fool, Coconuts Are Cool

A coconut tree from below. A gorgeous blue sky above its palm tree-esque branches.

We’re sure you’re wondering. Why are ReLove talking about coconuts? Have they gone nuts? Why do they care? Good question(s). Spoiler alert - it’s not just because we enjoy coconut milk. There’s a new plastic-free, all-natural alternative in town. This week, we introduce you to The Coconut Collection - an assembly of sustainably sourced, organically farmed products, to add a little eco-awesome to your kitchen. Before that, allow us to introduce you to coconuts, in case y'all haven’t met before.

Check out our Coconut Q&A once you've read this article

How are coconuts grown?

A coconut sprouts from the remnants of a dropped coconut.

New coconut trees grow from fallen coconuts. Let’s not get into that whole chicken and egg scenario (but surely the coconut came first and sprouted more??). When they fall from a tree or are placed in a suitable spot - a well lit, warm area ideally 21ºC plus - they will begin to sprout shoots (as pictured, left). Even if they fall into seas and rivers, they are determined to just keep livin', and will float until they reach land. When they do, assuming the spot is in a suitable tropical climate (and no one has eaten it by this point), they will begin to grow shoots and roots. Until they can take root, get this, they will feed THEMSELVES with their own juice! We told you they are determined. Coconut trees are most popularly grown in the developing world, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, though they can also be grown in two US states where the tropical climate suits - Hawaii and southern Florida.

To harvest fresh coconuts, farmers climb the tree, often using a rope made from coconut husk, and will tap each coconut with a knife to assess its maturity. Each coconut will take around a year to ripen fully and will grow alongside several others in a bunch. Longer than we imagined, although their delicious coconut water is ready in about 6 or 7 months. If it's the 'meat' you're after (don't worry we'll explain what that is shortly), you'll need to wait another 5 or 6 months. Their colour can also been an indicator of ripeness - immature fruit is bright green while it wo ill brown as it matures. As it matures, the coconut water hardens, becoming the sought after 'meat' (promise we'll explain what it is soon) that is so desirable for farmers.

Did you know…

💚 Coconuts are, despite their name, actually considered seeds. We thought they were some sort of mashup between fruit and nut but hey-ho, the more you know 💡 They’re considered as such since they act as the seed to another coconut tree when they lay on the ground for a few months. 

💚 Coconuts are considered a member of the palm tree family - hence why you may have been confused at the top photo's relevance. Scientifically, you’ll hear them referred to as “Cocos Nucifera” (a fantastic name).

💚 Coconuts are considered a ‘functional food’, with benefits to our health beyond just basic nutrients. Its presence of lauric acid is also influential in fighting off viruses.

💚 Coconut trees often grow 30 metres tall, and each leaf approximately 4 or 5 metres in length. Each coconut tree can live around 80 years and produce hundreds of coconuts and thousands of litres of sap in its lifetime.

What are coconuts used for?

Other than the absolute obvious (a coconut, to, you know, eat), you’ll have most likely seen coconut milks, body butters and oils on the shelves in your local stores, or noticed them listed as an ingredient in your favourite Indian curries. Coco sugar (another fantastic name) is also an increasingly popular export - it has a caramel flavour and is perfect to use in cooking in place of brown sugar! Products like these have seen coconuts become the leading exports from many of the world's developing countries including Indonesia (where it became the lead export in 2018).

These are by far their most interesting applications though. Their thick green outer layer, which you may not have even been aware existed since it is removed to reveal the brown coconuts us lot in the Western world would recognise, is called a husk. Its fibres, named coir, are used to make ropes, sacks, doormats and even mattress stuffing! The white inner 'flesh' of a coconut is the most commonly used aspect of the seed; grated and dried to produce coconut milk, or extracted in oil form to be used in cooking. Dried coconut meat (aka flesh) can also produce oil which is used in many eco-friendly soaps, while the abundance of sap produced by each coconut tree is utilised in making sugars and syrups, in place of traditional Western alternatives like honey (who's joining us in giving this a try?) Coconuts are even being tested in cars as alternatives to synthetic materials like sun visors! They really are the super-eco alternative you had no idea about.

So where do ReLove come in? 

Where we come in, is their application in the kitchen. Despite their above uses, many coconut farmers simply have no reason to utilise every part of the coconut. Once their white inner flesh, otherwise known as coconut meat is used for milk or oils, their dried shells (husks) are often the leftover aspect of many of your favourite coconut products - rendered useless and burned to make way for the new crops, emitting needless CO² into the atmosphere in the process. 

Or at least that’s how it was done. Now, in partnership with JungleCulture, we are on a mission to help right this wrong. Saving and reusing the surplus coconut shells, we will soon be offering our most reclaimed eco-alternative yet. That’s right, even the shells are reusable. Instead of farmers releasing harmful gases by burning the leftovers, we are reusing the leftovers, to offer our super sustainable public, gorgeous, all natural, organic alternatives to the blandness of a modern kitchen. With coconut bowls and spoons, perfect for your morning cereal and healthy eating habits, you'll never feel more eco than eating your Corn Flakes from a coconut bowl. Oh, and coconut candles too, did we mention those? All as part of The Coconut Collection, dropping Friday.

Cue the coconut coup, this Tuesday.

Thank you to all the websites we've referenced in this article. You have educated us on this truly wonderful seed, and enlightened us further to its awesome applications. At ReLove we are always looking for ways to improve the sustainable alternatives we can offer. Even with traditionally long-lasting products like ceramic and glass, there is always a better alternative, and coconut, like bamboo, is exactly that. Organic, compostable and reusable is the future, and we are driven to meet our pledge (highlighted in our 2020 Wrapped end of year review, which you can find here) to provide a wider spread of sustainable alternatives, while also taking a focus on UK based supply to both speed up delivery times and reduce our carbon footprint. This is our first step toward that. Peace out.

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