Among the many palm trees there is a very large one called Indaiá (Attalea dubia) and here in Capijuma there are many of them. They grow very slowly, have giant leaves, and they produce incredibly heavy bunches (~40kg) of hundreds of small (6-8cm) coconuts all year around.

(left) flowering Indaías, (right) fully formed Indaía coconut bunch

(left) flowering Indaías, (right) fully formed Indaía coconut bunch

After some short lived curiosity peaked attempts, we had neglected them for the longest time we had been in Capijuma and that was for a good reason. Their thick hard shell is a tough nut to crack. In fact in the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest), besides humans with a lot of patience, perseverance, and a big hammer or a good rock, only the squirrels are able to penetrate the Indaiá coconuts. And it is one of the only nuts in Brazil that birds are unable to open. So you can imagine why we didn’t jump at the idea of extracting more than a hand full here and there.

(left top) collected coconut bunch, (left bottom) after some good hammering, (middle) older nuts falling, (right top) squirrel looking for the nuts, (right bottom) box full of nuts collected from the floor

(left top) collected coconut bunch, (left bottom) after some good hammering, (middle) older nuts falling, (right top) squirrel looking for the nuts, (right bottom) box full of nuts collected from the floor

This went on for a long time until one day I just went at it and cracked and peeled them all day long. I ended up opening around 180 of them which amounted to 933 grams of coconut meat (about 5g per nut). When I juiced them I got almost 700ml of extremely creamy coconut milk and a good amount of coconut flakes. The cream is delicious! Its thick sweet creaminess   lends it wonderfully for breakfast, cooking Thai style cuisines, or making ice-cream.

(left top) our WWOOFers hard at work; (left bottom) separating the soft outer shell before cracking the inner hard shell; (middle top) cracked nuts; (middle bottom) coconut flakes and thick creamy juice; (right) the nuts coming out whole from the inner shell after drying them

(left top) our WWOOFers hard at work; (left bottom) separating the soft outer shell before cracking the inner hard shell; (middle top) cracked nuts; (middle bottom) coconut flakes and thick creamy juice; (right) the nuts coming out whole from the inner shell after drying them

Of course on the one hand in terms of weight that isn’t much for an entire days worth of work. On the other hand it provides a great deal of energy (at least 354kcal/100g)* and it is a 100% renewable food source. The arduous work, especially scraping out the meat from the cracked coconuts, inspired Antonio to experiment with them a little by drying them in the sun and on the stove. After two or more weeks in the sun they do come out mostly whole and make the extraction a great deal easier.

Even though we are leaving Capijuma, hopefully by taking a good number of their coconuts we will be able to plant them in Abadiânia and not have to say goodbye to the majestic Indaiás this soon after we got to know and appreciate them. The magic ingredient until they will produce coconuts is patience. Quite possibly a decade worth of patience.

*I couldn’t find any research analyzing the nutrition content, except for the oils it contains. My guess is that the Indaiás coconut meat has at least 354kcal/100g, which is the official energy content of the regular coconut palm tree meat according to the USDA.

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