Monday, July 19, 2010

Cohune - The survival tree

We have lots of cohune trees on the west end of our property. I find them fascinating and have asked Rene to save as many as possible. It appears that the eastern end of our place was cleared with a bulldozer many years ago, so there aren’t as many cohunes and the other trees are moderate sized.

Rene’s talked a lot about how special the cohune tree is to the local people. He calls it a survival tree and it grows in almost any soil. During past hurricanes the tree has literally kept them alive. Also, the Maya people used them in starving times.

Of course, we’ve seen so many palapas with thatched roofs, either of cohune or bay leaf. I’ve seen Rene make a quick shelter of cohune fronds when he’s caught in the rain. They can also be used to build a temporary sun shade for garden plants.

The cohune nuts are fascinating. Folks collect the nuts that have fallen on the ground, crack them (which is a daunting task as the shell is extremely hard) and boil the nut for cooking oil.

Prior to the introduction of torches, they would make a fire with the shells as they burn extremely hot.

You can break the young cohune nuts that are still on the trees, and extract the water, much like a coconut. You can roast the soft nut and add a little sugar for food.

During times of extreme need they would fall the cohune tree and cut out the tender heart which is at the top of the tree. It’s very sweet but if you boil it the sweetness goes out. They would smash & fry it or make soup out of it.

There is a nut between the shell and the oil nut. The gibnuts & bush rabbits love to eat it and they get very fat. People then hunted and eat them.

We were fortunate that Rene pointed out the bloom of our cohune (is that a rhyme?) This bloom only lasts for maybe one day and then fades. Later it becomes a tall dull brown colored shell that resembles a canoe. Out of it is a large dull ecru colored bloom. When it initially blooms the boat is a bright orange and the blossom is a lovely bright pale gold. It all hides away at the heart, high up in the tree, so it’s easy to overlook.

Rene told us that when he was a boy they would get the dry boats and use as sleds to slide down the hills, especially in the mud.

We feel blessed that we have so many around our place and that Rene is here to let us see things thru his eyes.


Suzanne McDaniel said...

very neat!

seems like we'll be in your "neck of the woods" for 1.5 weeks next month. Scouting out land for our move :)

Alycia Renee said...

Do you know how to boil the nut for oil? I cracked a whole bunch cohune nuts today and crushed them but forgot to ask the locals what to do next. You boil them in water, I presume?