Visitors to Belize often find themselves impressed by the immense biodiversity on view in our tropical country. Offshore, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to thousands of species of fish. On land, hundreds of bird species are a delight to naturalists. But did you know that coconuts, too, come in abundance in Belize? We've got more than 25 native species of coconut trees!
The plentiful tree, a relative to the date palm, has a long history, and myriad uses. Its fronds provide shade to crops and wildlife below, and its trunks provide lumber. In Belize, locals climb coconut trees with a long stick to whack the fruit off its perch. The coconut shell works great as a bowl and other utensils, while the husk, when burned, can provide charcoal and acts as an insect repellent. But it's what's inside the coconut that we love most—though you have to work for it! A machete helps cut the fruit open. That's where you'll find nutrient-rich coconut meat (the source for coconut oil), and—to the delight of every thirsty beachgoer— refreshing coconut water.
At Itz'ana, one of our favorite coconut recipes is our pickled coconut relish. A mixture of sweet and tangy, it's a great condiment for crackers and meats. The simple recipe is a breeze to make, although it takes three days to fully pickle. Here's how to make Itz'ana's Coconut Relish.
- ½ medium fresh coconut
- 1 medium red onion
- 6 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1.5 cups white vinegar
- 1 small clove of garlic
- 10 black peppercorns
- 10 allspice berries
- 10 coriander seeds
- 3 small sprigs of thyme
- 1 small habanero chili
- Break open coconut and separate the water and flesh, setting them aside.
- Slice the flesh into fine slithers.
- In a medium pan, bring the coconut water to a boil. Stir in sugar, salt, vinegar, and flavorings.
- Return to boil until reduced by a third, stirring occasionally.
- While the mixture reduces, peel and thinly slice the onion; peel and slice the garlic clove.
- In the meantime, boil half a kettle of water.
- Place the garlic and onion together in a sieve and pour boiling water over them, then allow to drip for 5 minutes.
- Fill a jar with the coconut flesh, onions and garlic in even layers.
- Pour the boiling coconut brine into the jar and allow to cool to room temperature before sealing.
Enjoy as a spread after at least three days of brining.
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