If you happen to find yourself in a tropical place, longing for one those luscious coconuts that dangle from the palms, then welcome to the club. It’s probably not news to any of you that coconut water (agua de pipa) is incredibly hydrating, full of natural electrolytes, packed with B-complex vitamins and amino acids, a kidney purifier, and when served cold, right out of it’s own shell, naturally delicious.
My brother Andy who is visiting us for the first time, decided this morning that he was going to climb one of the mellow, lanky palm trees that are surrounding us this weekend up on the Caribbean side of Panama. He took the better part of an hour deciding which tree was just right, which exact coconut would be his first target, and then babbled to himself some sort of physics algorithm for how to best scale the tree. He took off his shoes, rubbed his hands together really fast, blew out hard, and then stepped onto the base of the steady palm. Four feet off of the ground, he looked up, then looked down, then looked at me and said with a big laugh – I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. He was back on the ground sooner than you could say coconut.
Meanwhile a local guy who works on the grounds of the house we are staying in, gave us a side long glance and a smile that said a thousand words. We asked if he could possibly get some coconuts for us, feeling like huge, goofy gringos. Within two minutes he had removed his shoes, and was nimbly scaling a (different) palm tree. He didn’t hug the tree, instead he kept his limber body far from it and used his feet and hands to shimmy his way up. Once he was at the top he hugged the tree and began to swat at the base of individual coconuts, where they met each dry palm frond. One by one coconuts began to rain down with a back drop of a blue sky and billowy white clouds, falling to the spiky grass lawn with a thud. Andy, Juan, and I watched with grins on our faces, impressed at how effortless this was for him.
Once he’d knocked down a bunch of coconuts, but before he scaled back down the tree, he called to his seven-year old son to bring him his machete. The boy grabbed his dad’s machete, hopped onto his little bike and delivered the requested tool. Quickly and with a steady hand, this guy who behaved as if this was just usual old business, began to chop at the flat end of each coconut, shaving away layer after layer at a sharp angle, removing the thick, shiny green layer and exposing the white, fibrous insides. Once he had reached the thinnest part of the skin, he used a sharp piece of shell he’d already cut, and dug in with it until he broke that last layer. He handed the first coconut to my brother with hardly a mumble, then was on to opening the next one. Only a few minutes had passed and we each had our own giant coconut and we were drinking up the good stuff. Birds were squawking and the waves were breaking. The breeze seemed especially perfect and the flavors of the coconut were bright.
Joaquin had just woken up from a nap, with a head full of sunscreen sticky hair and impressions of his blanket on his cheek. I poured some of the agua de pipa into his thermos and he went to town – he loved it. Andy went scavenging for some clean drift wood, poured the coconut water into a large block ice tray, set a stick into each square, and popped the tray into the freezer. Our very own ‘Agua de Pipsicles’. They are so good and so healthy and just perfect for kids. Or, imagine just using the cubes for a mixed drink with a little rum, some lime juice, and a touch of agave. Yes, I’ll take two thank you very much.
It was just a small moment in our day, but one of those moments that make “the little things” feel like the best things.
Step-by-step photos of today’s mini adventure.