Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Buha, The Coconut Cotyledon

Oh man. I found something out about coconuts today. It feels like finding out your longtime best friend has twelve toes. I feel pretty stupid, but beyond that, amused.

So the mature coconuts fallen in our garden are collected regularly for their milk. Awhile ago one was cracked open for lunch (stewed vegetables), and there was a strange formation inside. Apparently, this coconut was ready to shoot some leaves out, and this thing-- called buwa or buha (Ilonggo)-- is an edible, soft predecessor.

It feels like and tastes like coconut-flavored foam. I couldn't finish it, but everyone else was munching away. The spongy balls can be cut into slices, and their flesh feels like a super firm frozen brazo de mercedes.

This part is actually the coconut cotyledon, sometimes called the "coconut embryo" or "coconut apple", is actually suspended in germination. It is named uto in the Cook Islands, o'o in Samoa, and manzanas de coco (coconut's apples) in the Americas. Check this video out for a low-tech but interesting compilation of what must be all existing photos of the coconut cotyledon on the internet, plus some marginal medicinal information.

There are few resources and accounts on it. Here, according to personal interviews, it is eaten raw in the province, especially by those preparing copra. In Micronesia, there are accounts of a soup containing it with arrowroot (uraro) flour. This person speaks of a Chinese-Malaysian who taught them how to eat it. This South Indian tells us that it may sometimes be caramelized. I hope to gather more stories in my free time.

This short search also led me to discussions of the "coconut pearl", which are intriguing and funny to me.