A rare moment of pure relaxation, I reclined on a lounge chair under the shade of my hat and watched the waves gently dance along the shore. Interrupted momentarily by a friendly voice asking if I would like some fresh coconut milk. Having seen others drink from the coconut palm, or the tree of life as they called it in Samoa, I was intrigued.
To my surprise, rather than bringing a coconut, like I had seen others drink from, he beckoned a mate and they headed to one of the trees. He promised me fresh coconut milk, but this seemed way beyond the call of duty.
Coconut palm trees are a Tree of Life on the Island nation of Samoa. Here, like on so many tropical paradises, they grow everywhere. Fresh coconut milk directly from the seed of the coconut (the brown hairy piece is technically the seed of the fruit) was a delicacy to me, although it is common on the island.
Why Drink Fresh Coconut Milk
There are plenty of digestive and other health benefits of drinking fresh coconut milk including lowered blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, preventing anaemia, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. But today was about fun.
How to Get Fresh Coconut Milk
I ran back to our bungalow to get my camera, and by the time I returned, he was already near the top of the tree. Had I not seen it before, I would have been shocked that he climbed so quickly.
Here’s how it was done:
Step 1: Climb the coconut palm tree
In the past, I watched this process and the trick seems to be the flat cloth tied between the ankles. Then, barefoot with the sole facing the tree and the cloth laying flat against the tree, the climber shimmies his way straight up the tree. No safety ropes, just man and tree.
However, my climber was even more clever and he had leather straps on his legs and spiked shoes that could dig into the flesh of the tree as he quickly made his way to the top. He made the bit of climb I saw look easy, but I am sure it is not.
Step 2: Toss a coconut out of the tree
Using the knife he carried up the tree, one coconut was tossed down for each member of our family. He’s still up there, but not so easy to see now.
Step 3: While at the top . . .
Not an official step of getting fresh coconut milk, but while up the tree, why now take advantage of the opportunity to toss down a few palm fronds. After all, these can be used for so many things.
Step 4: Open the coconut
Watching the team of two open the coconut made me wonder which is the more difficult task: climbing the tree or opening the coconut? But now I did understand why he needed to include his mates for the process. Each coconut was opened by two men. One pressing it onto a large wooden spike held up by the other.
Step 5: Peel back the hard outer shell
Next, peel back the hard outer shell and coir (fibrous husk) of the coconut and use your machete to get the top off in one quick blow. The man who was up the tree is in the background. You can still see the straps on his legs.
Step 6: Enjoy the fresh coconut milk
Surprisingly more tasty than I expected the fresh coconut milk to be, and the bonus was we also got the coconut flesh.
Pro tip: when ordering fresh coconut milk in the seed you would ask for “Niu” in Samoa.
Why is it called the Tree of Life
Very simply, no part of the tree is wasted. The coconut palm tree is special to the Samoan people, as the entire tree can be used:
- The trunk for building or fence posts,
- The leaves for thatched roofs, mats, baskets and other accessories,
- The fruit, or coconut, for food and drink.
And it’s not just Samoa. Coconut palms are important to many tropical cultures. In fact, we learned about it again on the Cook Islands.
Where did we get our fresh coconut milk in Samoa?
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We stayed at a Saletoga Sands Resort and Spa. With ocean and pool views, a spa, activities, and fabulous service, it’s a great place to relax. It was here that we experienced fresh coconut milk directly from the tree. While there was enough to keep us busy at the resort, we also found many things to do in Samoa.
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