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Nuts About Coconuts

July 22, 2016, 8:20 AM HST
* Updated November 15, 3:15 PM
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Big Island Now stock photo, July 2016.

Big Island Now stock photo, July 2016.

What comes to mind when you hear the word coconut—images of tall coconut trees swaying to and fro in the gentle trade winds of Hawai‘i or a beautiful white sandy beach with waves gently rolling on to the shore?

Or maybe it’s an image of a freshly picked coconut that has been expertly cut open by a local vendor who put a straw into its center, allowing you to sip on its sweet watery goodness?

Known as “niu” in the Hawaiian language, the coconut (Cocos nucifera) is a common palm in tropical islands throughout all parts of the Pacific. It can also be found in warm parts of eastern Asia.

Known to be a staple food source in the Pacific, it was planted extensively throughout the Polynesian triangle.

The early Hawaiians valued the coconut for its other uses. They utilized the entire tree—trunk, leaves and fronds, husk and shells.

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Today one can still find many items created from the coconut tree, such as hula drums, fans, toys and food containers.

Big Island Now stock photo, July 2016.

Big Island Now stock photo, July 2016.

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The pulu-niu (coconut husk fibers) were braided or fashioned into a twisted cord, which was used in lashing the canoe—known as ‘aha.

This alone played a vital role in the migration of the first Hawaiians that came to Hawai‘i from the South Pacific.

It is this very rough rope that held their voyaging canoes together. No other rope could withstand the elements, the winds, rains and constant pressure of the elements on the long open sea voyages like the pulu-niu.

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Hawaiian legends tell us the story of the god Maui, who used a 15-strand pulu-niu made by his mother to slow the sun down, allowing for longer days to help her kapa cloth dry.

Coconut oil has taken a front seat in the health craze, with benefits ranging from helping to controlling cholesterol levels to killing microorganisms like staph and curbing your appetite.

Coconut water is a refreshingly sweet, nutty tasting drink that contains easily digested carbohydrates in the form of sugar and electrolytes.

Big Island Now stock photo, July 2016.

Big Island Now stock photo, July 2016.

It is low in calories, naturally fat- and cholesterol-free, and has more potassium than four bananas.

It is a super-hydrating drink—and these are just a few of the many health benefits of what some have called “nature’s sports drink.”

Coconuts have long been around and have benefitted the world in both ancient and modern times, and do more than provide a person with a tranquil, relaxing image.

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