Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cohune nuts & healthy eating

We've both become extremely lethargic since our projects have ceased and the weather has become extremely hot and humid.  I've never been much of a cook and now, with the heat, I have made only a minimum effort thinking about meals.  We've both come to the same conclusion that we need to lose some weight.  Or better yet, a lot of weight.  I've decided to make a positive step by eliminating processed foods from our diet.  Here it's probably easier to get clean organic foods as the farmers are less sophisticated, thank goodness, but our choices are definitely limited.  

One really easy change is to start using cohune or coconut oil.  Both can be found in the farmer's market and we now are enjoying a small bottle of cohune oil from Rene and Bonita.  We are so lucky to have a large group of healthy cohune palms on the west side of our property.  These fantastic trees are becoming more scarce with each burning season.  Many farmers consider the cohune a nuisance and intentionally burn them.  Others use burning as a method of clearing or cleaning and the cohunes, which burn easily, are lost in the process.  

The nuts are formed in huge bunches that hang down and take a year to mature.  When they're ripe they fall and can then be gathered.  It takes a lot of determination to break the hard outer shell to get to the nut.  A sledge or back of an axe are necessary if processing by hand.  The nut tastes a lot like a coconut.  Rene collects and bags the ripe nuts and takes them home for Bonita and family to process.  The lay them in a secure area to dry, then break them by hand.  One 100 lb bag of nuts will produce about 2 quarts of nuts.  The shells are set aside and when fully died they'll use them as fire starters.  I've also been told that they infuse a wonderful coconut smell to the fire.  

Bonita uses a huge, very old cabbage bark log which had the center burned out to a depth of about 1 1/2 feet.  The nut meat is put in this hole and she takes an iron bar and crushes the nuts.  These are then placed in a large pot with water and they're boiled an entire day.  At night they put out the fire and in the morning the oil has risen to the top and they scoop it off.  She boils the nuts the second day and repeats the process.  The second day produces most of the oil.  They later throw the nuts into the fire for heat and the lovely smell.  They boil the oil slowly to get rid of the remaining water and get the pure oil. 

I wish we had the money to buy a press that would crack the nuts to encourage the locals to bring their cohune nuts to be more easily broken to try to preserve this precious product.  With jobs so scarce it would also be a small way for some to earn a little extra.  Too bad we're not the "rich gringos".

To me the overriding value tho' is their beauty.  To sit on the veranda and watch them gracefully sway in the breeze and realize their worth to this tiny country makes me realize that, to me, they are Belize.

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