PEG & JFB 2013 Feb 8:
Coconut flour production and coconut oil production are complementary processes.
PEG 2013 Jan 24:
In chatting with a coconut water vendor at the Fancy Food Show (which occupied a large portion of the Moscone Convention Center for three days), I learned that farmers are having a hard time keeping up with demand for coconut water. From personal experience I know that the source makes a difference – I don’t care for some brands because they’re too salty; salty may be fine (even desirable) when the coconut water is consumed as a sports drink, but lousy when used to make hot chocolate.
Coconut sugar (not to be confused with palm sugar which comes from date palms) is harvested from the same trees as coconut water and coconuts. I’m not sure if harvesting sap for coconut sugar inhibits formation of young coconuts (and is thus mutually exclusive to harvesting coconut water). Because coconut sugar has a low enough GI to be acceptable for consumption by diabetics, has a high mineral content, and has a flavor profile and baking properties reasonably close to dark brown cane sugar, it is likewise on the early side of an explosion in popularity.
Coconut sugar processing is akin to that for maple syrup. The sap is usually reduced down to a paste. I buy it in granular form which I then use as I would cane sugar. The processing is done locally.
The processing for coconut water is best done locally but often is not. When it’s not, the young coconuts still encased in thick white husks (the exocarp and mesocarp) are shipped to central locations for processing or to markets such as North American grocery stores and restaurants for fresh eating. The problem is that if untreated the husk quickly gets moldy. Consequently before transport the young coconuts are soaked in a chlorine solution and/or treated with other anti-bacterial agents.
At least a couple of vendors offer dried coconut water – a powder which can be reconstituted into coconut water.Coconut flour (made from mature coconut flesh) is gaining in popularity as an option in GF (gluten-free) baked goods. (There were a lot of new GF products at the show – some of which were nasty tasting.) Per the Wikipedia article on Flour
, “Coconut flour is made from ground coconut meat and has the highest fiber content of any flour, having a very low concentration of digestible carbohydrates makes an excellent choice for those looking to restrict their carbohydrate intake.”. The flour has the consistency of cake flour (made from wheat) and a sweet flavor. It works best in soft sweet baked goods.Coconut oil (typically offered in a consistency similar to Crisco) has its adherents though I’m skeptical about the health claims and would rather limit oil use to a small amount of oil from sources such as flax seed. Unless some very different study results come out, I don’t expect the market for coconut oil in culinary applications to grow significantly.
The various types of palms producing sweet sap have bio-fuel potential.
Barbados grows coconuts but I’m not sure as to the role that it currently plays in their economy.
Depending on the climate, harvesting products from palm trees is very sustainable. I’d have to dig up my earlier research to confirm, but as I recall the water used by palm trees is significantly less than that used by annual crops. Also, palm trees will tolerate much saltier water (though that may lead to saltier coconut water).
My suggestion is to look at a closed ecosystem producing coconut water powder in which the water released during dehydration is captured and reused and in which solar power and coconut-based bio-fuel is used to power the process.