I’ve never really paid much attention to coconuts. After all, I live in Northern California. Coconuts don’t exactly grow around here. I remember my grandfather buying one and cracking it open when I was little. It was a complete novelty. Then came the start of my real food education and my new love for coconuts!
No doubt coconut products will stay a staple in our house long after we have graduated from GAPS. Coconut water is one amazing coconut product that has proven to be an extremely pivotal part of the healing journey in our home.
What are the benefits of coconut water?
The clear liquid from the middle of a young, green coconut has a long list of benefits. Coconut water is full of magnesium, potassium, and sodium, making it fantastic for oral re-hydration therapy and preventing dehydration. In fact, it has the highest concentration of electrolytes of anything found in nature, and in the event of an emergency can be put directly into an I.V. Soldiers serving in remote areas of the Pacific during World War II were saved using coconut water.
Coconut water is antibacterial, full of amino acids, helps to remove toxins from the body, and kills intestinal worms. It contains high levels of cytokinins which support cell division and cell regeneration. Even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has jumped on board in support of coconut water benefits. More than ten years ago it was granted a patent for a bottling process that preserves its nutrients, saying that it “contains the same five electrolytes found in human blood”.
How do you source coconut water?
Once a young, green coconut is cracked and the inside hits the air, the water begins to deteriorate rather rapidly. If bottled properly, it will stay fresh from 10 days to 3 weeks. And regardless of what labels read, it’s on it’s way out when it turns from clear to pink. This means you have to pay attention to how the coconut water is packaged to know if it is worth the money or just a dead, sugar drink inside.
In short, if it comes in a can, if it comes in a tetra pac, or if it comes on the shelf and not refrigerated, there’s a 99% chance it is pasteurized, dead, and not worth the money. It needs to have been packaged in a way that it was not heated. Anything shelf stable is going to need either a preservative, or have been pasteurized.
If you can source a young, green coconut, you can harvest the water yourself. You want coconuts that are in the same quality as when they came off the tree. I had a super hard time finding any that were truly raw. If they are big and green, that is perfect. If they have been shaved and are white, they are most likely sprayed in order to preserve them.
I was not able to find an organic coconut in all of Northern California. And growing my own young, green coconuts simply isn’t an option for me. While California is full of imported palm trees (often planted next to pines), coconut trees just aren’t going to happen. It’s this stubborn climate thing that doesn’t allow them to grow.
In the end, I found two sources of coconut water that appear to be entirely raw and preserved properly. They are Exotic Superfoods and Harmless Harvest. My personal favorite is Exotic Superfoods because it comes frozen.
Why would you ferment coconut water?
Coconut water is very high in sugar. If you have trouble with yeast, it may not be a good idea to drink raw coconut water without fermenting it first. In order to capitalize on its amazing healing benefits but not add to the yeast issues, we chose to ferment it at first. Fermenting coconut water eats up the residual sugar, resulting in a vinegary like beverage. Watch out, though. Like other probiotic foods, it is wise to introduce it slowly.
If you would like to give fermented coconut water a shot and not have to make it yourself, I know of one quality brand for purchase — Body Ecology’s Cocobiotic. If you want to make ferment it yourself, it’s really easy!
How to Make Fermented Coconut Water
Warm coconut water to 100 degrees. Place in a fermenting jar and add probiotic for starter. For 12 ounces of coconut water I add approximately ¼ teaspoon probiotic. I have successfully used both Biokult and Gutpro. Mix with a wooden spoon and put on a lid. Put it in a warm location and wrap jar with a towel to keep the light out.
Depending on the warmth of your home, it takes an average of 3 days for fermented coconut water to be ready. It is ready for drinking when there is no residual sweet taste left, and the water starts to bubble like a true ferment. There should be a small layer of white foam on the top, and the water will turn cloudy. It should have a vinegar tang with a coconutty aftertaste.