Several things are not quite accurate about the title of this article. “Joseph” is fine, and so is the word “coconut”. But it should read either „Joseph and the coconuts“, or „Sebastian and his coconut“, or perhaps even „Joseph, the vanilla garden, and the coconut tree“. I don’t know why, but for some reason I liked the one best that I chose, accurate or not.
I am on the island of Lifou at the moment, the largest of the Loyalty Islands which lie to the east of Grande Terre. They form a province of their own, one of altogether three of which New Caledonia is composed, and are said to be a stronghold of traditional Kanak culture. I’ve been here for a bit less than two days now, and I can only say that I really enjoy being here!
But what about Joseph, Sebastian and alle these coconuts then, I hear you ask?
Well, I am staying with this family – „chez l’habitant“, as it is commonly called. Yesterday, Emily suggested I go to the neighbouring tribe of Wucamene and visit the „vanilleraie“ of Joseph and Anna, both family of her husband. That is something I had been really keen on doing anyway, so it wasn’t really hard to convince me.
I went there in the afternoon. The place is called „Ô Naturel“ and well signposted. Joseph took me on a tour through the garden. It was interesting to be shown real vanilla plants for the first time, even though, frankly, there isn’t a lot to see at the moment. The plants are all green and won’t be harvested until June next year. They have got 350 plants in their garden, and they all need to be pollinated by hand, because no insect or bird here will do the job. The vanilla plants were imported to New Caledonia a long time ago, and they thrive well in this subtropical climate. Ça pousse bien ici!
So much for the vanilla. I think I will visit the nearby „Maison de la vanille“ one of these days in order to see some more and maybe buy a souvenir.
The most exciting bit was yet to come, however. I had already noticed the huge coconut palms in the garden, they look just splendid. Then Joseph asked me if I wanted a coconut. Of course I did. DUH!
To cut down the nut (two, in fact), Joseph used a special tool: a saw attached to a stick at least six metres long. Or maybe it was a knife. Something really sharp anyway, because Joseph cut two nuts off the tree in no time, and they fell to the ground each with a loud thump.
I am so ignorant. Watching him harvest the nuts, I thought to myself, aren’t coconuts brown and dry? Well, the answer is: not if they were hanging in their tree until 30 seconds ago. Ours were green and fresh and really heavy.
We went back to the place where Joseph had started the tour. He took a huge machete and chopped large slices off one tip of the first coconut (which was to be mine) until he reached the white flesh. He punched a little hole in the hard shell and handed me the whole thing. All I needed to do was take a little lid off that he had carved (edible!), put the entire thing to my mouth and drink the juice straight from the nut. So delicious! What an extraordinary experience! The juice as well as the soft flesh are not to be confused with coconut milk, which is extracted from the dried nut and requires grating and pressing.
Extraordinary! And I’m happy.
I wasn’t the only coconut consumer that afternoon. Joseph seemed to enjoy his nut at least as much as I did mine.
Aaaah, so good!
So there you go, that was my coconut story. And believe me, I really wouldn’t want to miss this wonderful experience.