Market Share — The case for coconuts

Coconuts have had their nutritional reputation both sullied and restored in the past few decades. Are they a superfood? Make these no-bake cookies and find out for yourself.

When my brother and I were kids, my parents — who were quite culinarily adventurous in their own suburban Calgary way — would often treat us to exotic delicacies from faraway lands: escargots from France, salsa from Mexico and fresh whole coconuts from the places where coconuts grow.

With great fanfare, my dad would take a long, sharp spike and drive it into the coconut’s hard surface, causing it to crack. With even greater anticipation, we would watch as Mom carefully poured out the milky liquid. When she was done, she would hand us the emptied coconut and we would take it to the basement and smash it with a hammer (if you read my column on walnuts, you will know that smashing things on the basement floor was a significant part of my childhood).

In those days, I could gnaw on a piece of coconut for hours on end. It was not so much that I liked the taste, preferring instead the sickening sweetness of macaroons and Mounds bars, but it was a good way to pass the time.

Then everything changed. It was sometime in the early ‘80s when all manner of coconut was banned in our house, including granola bars and Ritz crackers, which were made with coconut oil (at the time, one of the so-called evil oils).

Today, everything has changed again: coconut water is ubiquitous in athletic clubs and health food stores, coconut has replaced olive as every “healthy” person’s oil of choice and unsweetened desiccated coconut, with its meaty texture and sticky surface, has been embraced by vegans, vegetarians and gluten-freegans. And, if the good people who run the important-sounding Coconut Research Centre are to be believed, the benefits of coconut, in all of its guises, are many — from improving digestion and bowel function to controlling dandruff.

It was the oft-mentioned (by me) Duguid-Alfords who brought coconut back into my life in the form of a rather miraculous “salsa” of coconut, herb, jalapeno and lime juice. Stuff it into fish, stir into stews or serve it alongside anything you desire to add freshness, tang and heat to a meal.

Once I had that coconut in the fridge, I realized there were countless things that could be done with it. You can add it to curries in lieu of milk, sprinkle it on all forms of hot and cold cereals and porridges, and bake it into an endless number of cakes and cookies.

A favourite, because it takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and requires only six ingredients, is a raw vegan chocolate macaroon that you simply mix together and pop in the freezer until you are ready to eat it. I must confess that this recipe is not my own — though I have made it so many times that it has come to feel that way — and comes from a Vancouver-based website called sweetonveg.

How to do it: All you do is put one cup of unsweetened coconut into a bowl, add one-third of a cup of cocoa and stir them together. The ratio of ingredients can be adjusted depending on how chocolatey you like it. Now, though I am reluctant to shill, I must say that what makes this dessert so delicious is the quality of the ingredients, and in my opinion, you can do no better with coconut and cocoa than Cuisine Camino (which is run by an Ottawa-based cooperative that makes organic, fair-trade baking products).

Because I have not wholly embraced the everything-coconut way of life, I use regular old butter instead of coconut. Put a one-inch cube in a saucepan and melt it. Then add about a quarter-cup of maple syrup, a pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla — and if you are feeling spicy, a dash of cinnamon or allspice — and pour it over the dry ingredients. It will seem that there is not enough wet to cover the dry, but just keep stirring and eventually it will all come together. Depending on your desire for order, you can drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a plate or form them into neat little balls. Stick them in the freezer for about 20 minutes, covered. Remove and eat. 


Read more about Stacey’s culinary and other adventures on her website, or follow her on Twitter @staceydewolfe

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