When you talk about food or plants in Hawaii, one of the first things that will come to mind is the coconut. Called, Niu in the Hawaiian Language, this was one of the most important plants in the world to the ancient Hawaiians.
You are probably thinking – they must have eaten a lot of coconut! Surprisingly, that’s not why it was so important. The Hawaiians had plentiful food sources and enjoyed eating fish, taro, and other cultivated plants. They also ate coconut, but that’s not why it was so important.
The coconut was like nature’s bottled water! When going on a long sea journey in a canoe or trekking to the desert like conditions of the neighbor islands, Hawaiians would always bring coconuts. The juice, more accurately called coconut water – and actually not juice but scientifically known as liquid endosperm. Coconut water shouldn’t be confused with coconut milk – to get coconut milk, the flesh must be ground down and the resulting juice squeezed out. Ah-ha! Coconut milk is the real coconut juice!
Coconut fronds were used for weaving. Coconut husks could be burned. The fiber from the husk (copra) could be woven into ropes and lines. Coconuts themselves were used in games, used to make musical instruments, and used as fertilizer. The uses of the coconut knew no bounds. Perhaps the only thing the Hawaiians didn’t use coconuts for was to make a radio – that was left to Hollywood and The Professor from Gilligan’s Island.
Fun fact: The original Gilligan’s Island is on the Windward Side of Oahu. It’s actually called Coconut Island!