Opening coconuts in Costa Rica

I was around Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula  – one of my favourite places in Costa Rica so far, when I started to form a strong interest towards the stunning amount of coconuts around me.

Drinking and eating fresh coconut is a part of the tropical dream, you can buy them “peeled” and ready to drink from the old rasta or local Tico on the beach for about a dollar or so – these guys are equipped with a machete and chop open them in a few seconds, but if they are not around – which is often the case in less touristy areas like Drake Bay, you start thinking about collecting and opening them yourself – and then comes the question, hey, how do you open these?

How do you open a coconut when there is no one around?

Once I decided to try the impossible and tried smashing the coconut on some sharp rocks at the beach. After about 30 minutes when I was already sweating like a pig and still couldn’t get rid of the outer shell – the thick massive fiber system protecting the actual coconut, a local guy came around and alleviated me from suffering by opening an untouched “nut” within 15 seconds.

Coconut with the thick outer shell – the exocarp and the mesocarp

That was the awkward moment when I realised why there are big piles of coconut shells at certain spots around the beach.
While some questions appeared in my unconscious regarding those piles, I didn’t yet make a connection until this happened. Maybe it could have been some weird coconut eater creature which comes out from the jungle at dawn to open and eat all those juicy coconuts and collect the shells in a pile. I was wrong. Actually there was a hardly visible tipped thick wood stick pushed half way in the ground near these piles, deep enough that it couldn’t move, and the secret technique is to stick the outer shell in that sharp wood with a single strong hit, then tear that massive outer fiber shell – the exocarp and the mesocarp – by placing your body weight on the coconut, and when it becomes loose enough, you pull it out from the stick, and you can tear it apart with bare hands so you can get your hands on the actual “nut”..
Then with a few well aimed hits with a small sharp stone on the top of the “nut”, you can take that top part off like a cap, drink the coconut water, and break the rest of it if you want access to the fresh white coconut meat – the inner brown coconut shell, the so-called endocarp is quite easy to break. Well no need to mention that I spent the rest of my day improving this newly learned skill, and after eating/drinking as much as I could, I collected a significant amount of “peeled nuts” and withdrew to my tent and consumed them in the next few days by simply sticking a straw in the nut whenever I desired some coconut water and broke the rest to eat the coconut meat.

Author: N.P.

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