Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch
Coconut water is a perfect symbol for the confluence of globalization and marketing, for the internet-viral speeds of health claims, for our thirst for convenient and healthy alternatives to soda and tasty alternatives to water.
So recently, it was a rare thing here in the U.S., on the mainland anyway. Within a decade or so, cans, bottles and tetrapaks of it seem to be everywhere. And where does it all come from? Imagine a couple or more coconuts’ worth of water in every one of those cans sold, and that a tree only produces 50 fruits in a year. What, are coconut palms taking over large swaths of previously forested lands? Well at least that’s not happening yet. In fact much of the water comes from small growers in places like Indonesia and the Phillippines, and previously, the water was wasted while getting to the meat, which is used for the shredded stuff, coconut milk and oil. It has not been an economic boom for those farmers though, until more fair trade practices take hold.
As for health, suffice to say that coconut water’s well hyped nutritional claims are not nature’s answer to all of our bodily problems. More importantly, what we westerners drink is not the same as a freshly hacked coconut with a straw in it. Rather, it has usually been reconstituted or pasteurized, removing some of the original nutrients. But it sure does taste good. Too bad about all that packaging, all of those single use, disposed of containers, and those thousands of miles worth of shipping to get it to our lips, to quench our thirsts.
Below’s a video about the tremendous reliance on the tree and its fruit, having been used for food and shelter for millennia.