Thursday, September 15, 2011

Coconut: From the legend to modernity

@ Adolphe Sylvain

It has been a while since I last shared a legend from Tahiti & her islands with you. To me, legends are like dreams that never die, and the Polynesian culture, being mostly oral, is very rich with poetic legends... They are part of our history and also part of the myth which built the paradise...

Today I wanted to share with you the legend of Hina & the eel which tells of the creation of coconut trees. Have you ever noticed that coconuts have two eyes and a mouth? 

According to the legend, Hina, a very beautiful Princess of Papeurii of Tahiti, was destined in marriage to the king of lake Vaihiria, Faaravaaianuu. When Hina went to meet her groom, she discovered he was a giant puhi (eel). 

Frightened, she ran to Maui to ask for his protection. Maui managed to capture the eel and cut it into three. The eel' head rolled to Hina's feet and said: " From this day on, all men, and firstly you, will kiss me on the mouth. I die but you will be mine anyway"

Maui wrapped the head and instructed Hina not to put it on the ground until she got home and destroyed it or the eel's prediction would come true . 

On her way home, Hina forgot Hiro's warning and she put the head on the ground as she stopped to bathe in the river. Immediately, roots sprouted and the head grew into a strange tree which resembled a giant eel, its head erect towards the sun: the first cononut tree was born. 

After a few days, the island of Tahiti went through a period of drought and the only plant which survived was the coconut tree.The men decided to taste its nuts which also contain sweet water and Hina drank from the coconut too. On the fruit, three dark stains, resembling two eyes and a mouth could be seen. It is said that drinking from a coconut, like Hina did, is like enjoying a royal kiss which was once denied.

"And Hina kissed the eel" by Bobby Holcomb

I personally think there is nothing as refreshing as drinking an ice cold coconut water bought from the Papeete market or from one of the many stalls on the side of the road... thinking that you are somehow part of the legend is just the icing on the cake that makes it that little bit more special.

Did you know? 

@Richard Harrington

Coconut water is deemed to be one of the healthiest drinks around, not only thanks to its natural sweet flavor but also to its all-natural appeal and health benefits...and although here in Tahiti, we mainly know coconut water in its natural form, some companies have developed coconut water products ranging from pure coconut water to flavored varieties. Even I was surprised when I heard about the hype around coconut water...after all, I've been drinking it since I was a child, mainly because it tastes good and is thirst quenching... Now I was actually reading that it had health benefits...(for example, coconut water contains 5 electrolytes which help certain functions of our body) and article appeared all over the internet praising the benefits of coconut water and dubbing it "nature's soft drink", or even "life enhancer"...from being a cure for hangovers to anti-aging properties... The benefits seem to be endless. 

I must say that although some of the claims might be true, I am pretty skeptical about a few of them and I even think that sometimes, coconut water has been mistaken with coconut milk, which is most definitely not the same thing (coconut water comes from the unripped nut whereas milk is extracted from the pulp of ripped coconut). Still, I believe the greatest benefit of coconut is its ability to give you this amazing feeling of a holiday drink, a piece of refreshing paradise that can be enjoyed anytime of the day.

@Greg Le Bacon / Tahiti Tourisme

Obviously, coconut has many other uses, and coconut water is only one of them. Its pulp can also be used to make coconut milk (used in Tahiti's traditional dish, poisson cru - raw fish with coconut milk) or macerated to create monoi, the sacred oil of the gods. Coconut wood is considered to be a precious wood and makes for the most exquisite carvings and craft in general.

@Vatea Bunton

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