**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Milk In The Coco-Nut
by [?]

For many centuries the occult problem how to account for the milk in the coco-nut has awakened the profoundest interest alike of ingenuous infancy and of maturer scientific age. Though it cannot be truthfully affirmed of it, as of the cosmogony or creation of the world, in the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ that it ‘has puzzled the philosophers of all ages’ (for Sanchoniathon was certainly ignorant of the very existence of that delicious juice, and Manetho doubtless went to his grave without ever having tasted it fresh from the nut under a tropical verandah), yet it may be safely asserted that for the last three hundred years the philosopher who has not at some time or other of his life meditated upon that abstruse question is unworthy of such an exalted name. The cosmogony and the milk in the coco-nut are, however, a great deal closer together in thought than Sanchoniathon or Manetho, or the rogue who quoted them so glibly, is ever at all likely, in his wildest moments, to have imagined.

The coco-nut, in fact, is a subject well deserving of the most sympathetic treatment at the gentle hands of grateful humanity. No other plant is useful to us in so many diverse and remarkable manners. It has been truly said of that friend of man, the domestic pig, that he is all good, from the end of his snout to the tip of his tail; but even the pig, though he furnishes us with so many necessaries or luxuries–from tooth-brushes to sausages, from ham to lard, from pepsine wine to pork pies–does not nearly approach, in the multiplicity and variety of his virtues, the all-sufficing and world-supplying coco-nut. A Chinese proverb says that there are as many useful properties in the coco-nut palm as there are days in the year; and a Polynesian saying tells us that the man who plants a coco-nut plants meat and drink, hearth and home, vessels and clothing, for himself and his children after him. Like the great Mr. Whiteley, the invaluable palm-tree might modestly advertise itself as a universal provider. The solid part of the nut supplies food almost alone to thousands of people daily, and the milk serves them for drink, thus acting as an efficient filter to the water absorbed by the roots in the most polluted or malarious regions. If you tap the flower stalk you get a sweet juice, which can be boiled down into the peculiar sugar called (in the charming dialect of commerce) jaggery; or it can be fermented into a very nasty spirit known as palm-wine, toddy, or arrack; or it can be mixed with bitter herbs and roots to make that delectable compound ‘native beer.’ If you squeeze the dry nut you get coco-nut oil, which is as good as lard for frying when fresh, and is ‘an excellent substitute for butter at breakfast,’ on tropical tables. Under the mysterious name of copra (which most of us have seen with awe described in the market reports as ‘firm’ or ‘weak,’ ‘receding’ or ‘steady’) it forms the main or only export of many Oceanic islands, and is largely imported into this realm of England, where the thicker portion is called stearine, and used for making sundry candles with fanciful names, while the clear oil is employed for burning in ordinary lamps. In the process of purification, it yields glycerine; and it enters largely into the manufacture of most better-class soaps. The fibre that surrounds the nut makes up the other mysterious article of commerce known as coir, which is twisted into stout ropes, or woven into coco-nut matting and ordinary door-mats. Brushes and brooms are also made of it, and it is used, not always in the most honest fashion, in place of real horse-hair in stuffing cushions. The shell, cut in half, supplies good cups, and is artistically carved by the Polynesians, Japanese, Hindoos, and other benighted heathen, who have not yet learnt the true methods of civilised machine-made shoddy manufacture. The leaves serve as excellent thatch; on the flat blades, prepared like papyrus, the most famous Buddhist manuscripts are written; the long mid-ribs or branches (strictly speaking, the leaf-stalks) answer admirably for rafters, posts, or fencing; the fibrous sheath at the base is a remarkable natural imitation of cloth, employed for strainers, wrappers, and native hats; while the trunk, or stem, passes in carpentry under the name of porcupine wood, and produces beautiful effects as a wonderfully coloured cabinet-makers’ material. These are only a few selected instances out of the innumerable uses of the coco-nut palm.