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Money maker goodies from sweet coconuts

Coconut is one of the most important crops in tropical areas. It is usually referred to as the ‘tree of heaven’ due to its height and its ability to provide more useful and diverse products.

Coconut has great importance in the economy as a potential source of employment and income generation among the plantation crops.

Already, there is a proposed bill that seeks to improve the coconut industry in the country fronted by leaders from the Coast. The Coconut Industry Development Bill 2021 will boost production and improve the economic fortunes of the Coast region, the leaders said.

The demand for coconut is high because of its usage and the adaptability of coconut palm to grow under various climatic and soil conditions.

According to Margaret Ochieng’, the value addition of coconut has a vital role to develop new products for increasing the income of the people. She does value addition for coconut and sells at the organic market in Nairobi.

“I get the coconut from the Coast. Coconut products and by-products can be commercially exploited for multiple purposes,” she says.

Coconut is classified largely into two types in Kenya: The East African Tall (EAT) and the Dwarf coconut. This classification is based on the most conspicuous difference between the two groups: the height of a mature tree.

The coconut provides a wholesome and nutritious source of water, milk and oil. Coconut is considered a food and oilseed crop.

Coconut water has high potassium and mineral content. It also contains sodium, phosphorus, chlorides, magnesium, ascorbic acids, Vitamin B and sugars.

It is also rich in amino acids like arginine, alanine and cysteine. Here are some value-added edible products from coconut: 

Desiccated coconut

Desiccated coconut is obtained from drying shredded, ground coconut after separating from the brown testa (outer covering). The fresh matured coconuts are de-husked and deshelled.

The de-shelling is done by a sharp knife to get the kernel (meat of the coconut fruit), which is disintegrated into a smaller size using a hammer mill.

The coconut flakes are steam blanched for about 20 minutes to reduce the microbial count. The disintegrated kernel is dried to reduce the moisture content by up to three per cent.

The desiccated coconut has more shelf life and is easy to transport.

“It is widely used in confectioneries, baking, puddings and ice creams. Desiccated coconut can be added to foods for its texture, flavour, as garnish for savory foods or dusting for the outer layer and as a substitute to raw grated coconut,” says Ms Ochieng’.

100 grammes of desiccated coconut is Sh110.

Coconut oil 

Coconut. Fresh young coconut with coconut oil isolated on white

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. It contains more saturated fat which slows down oxidation, lasting up to two years without spoiling.

Coconut oil is generally obtained by mechanical extraction methods.

In the dry extraction method, well-dried copra (dried coconut kernels from which coconut oil is expelled) is pressed in a screw press or hydraulic press to extract oil by breaking the oil cells in the kernel. After extraction, the oil and cake are separated by filtration. Coconut oil of 250ml costs Sh350.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is a natural and very versatile ingredient broadly used in Swahili, Asian and Indian cuisine. It is an oil-water emulsion obtained from the aqueous extract of coconut meat.

The coconut kernel is disintegrated then pressed and squeezed with hot water to extract the milk from the kernel. After extraction milk is filtered to remove the solids then it is pasteurised to eliminate the microorganisms.

Coconut milk can be consumed raw or used as a milk substitute in coffee, tea and can also be mixed with fruits to make a yoghurt substitute. 65ml costs Sh60 and 250ml goes for Sh195.

Coconut Candy

There is one popularly known as kashata, which is sold in the Coastal towns. To make kashata, one needs desiccated coconut or freshly grated coconut, sugar, water, ground cardamom and a pinch of saffron to add colour.

“If using desiccated coconut, you will need to soak it in water to attain moisture,” says Ochieng’.

Mix the sugar with a cup of water and cook for about four minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally and make sure the sugar doesn’t burn.

Add cardamom and saffron, and the grated or desiccated coconut (the water should be almost all absorbed.  If not, add leftover water to the sugar syrup).

Cook on low heat, stirring until well mixed. Pour on a greased plate. Flatten with a buttered knife and cut into the desired shapes before the sweet firms up.

“Alternatively, you can shape the mixture into balls once it is slightly cool. Garnish with pistachio (type of nut)  if you wish. Store in an airtight container,” says Ms Ochieng’.

A piece of kashata costs Sh10. They can be packed individually or in a container.

 Also, coconut candy is made either from coconut cream or milk. Malt syrup and sugar are added to the coconut milk in the desired proportion.

Then the mixture is heated to a very high temperature for caramelisation (a slow cooking process that occurs when sugar is cooked over low heat).

After attaining the thick consistency, the thick mass is transferred into a container and then cooled. The candy is then cut into the desired shape, size and wrapped. 

Coconut flour

Coconut flour is a unique product prepared from coconut residue obtained after the extraction of its milk.

It is a rich healthy source of dietary fibre which can be used as bulking agents, filling agents and as a substitute for wheat, rice and potato flour.

The flour can be used to prepare baked products, snacks and extruded foods and steamed products.

A 500-gramme pack costs Sh430.

Coconut wine (Neera and toddy)

Coconut toddy also called palm wine is a sweetish, milk-white liquid obtained when young coconut inflorescence is tapped.

The unfermented sweet sap is called Neera which is obtained before fermentation. A little lime is added to the collecting earthen pot to prevent the sap from fermenting.

Toddy is obtained by the natural fermentation of sap. When the sap flows from the spadix, fermentation starts suddenly. Flora such as bacteria and fungi are responsible for the fermentation of coconut sap.

Toddy is fully fermented in six to eight hours. The alcoholic content of toddy is about four to six per cent and has less shelf life. Acidity increases with fermentation and hence it has to be consumed within 12 hours of collection, to avoid an acidic or sour taste.

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