czwartek, 11 kwietnia 2013

Coconut palm, the tree of Zanzibar

The coconut palm (also, cocoanut), Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae (palm family). It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos.The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which, botanically, is a drupe, not a nut. The spelling cocoanut is an archaic form of the word. The term is derived from 16th century Portuguese and Spanish coco, meaning "head" or "skull", from the three small holes on the coconut shell that resemble human facial features. (definition from Wikipedia, free encyclopedia)

Palm trees of one type or another are found in nearly all the tropical areas of the world. Zanzibar is blessed with an abundant variety of them, and probably the most familiar and evocative of all is the African Tall Coconut Palm.

The sight of these slender trees bordering a long, white beach and swaying in the gentle breeze of the Indian Ocean is one that many tourists associate with a "Tropical Paradise." But there is much more to these palm trees than their "post-card" image and a convenient place to sling your hammock.

These tall, slender palms are an integral part of everyday life for many thousands of residents. The obvious and latent uses and products derived from this tree, also known as "The Tree of Life", are many and diverse. The most immediately evident is the food and drink obtained from the nut itself, both of which are known to guests. However, the inflorescence (sap) can be tapped from the tree to obtain fresh coconut juice. This in turn can be fermented to make a beer that is rich in minerals and vitamins. This beer (known as Tembo or Pombe, in Kiswahili) can be further distilled to produce a strong spirit - pure alcohol - similar to gin. It can be processed further to make spirit vinegar and a form of brown sugar. The internationally known aromatic liqueur, "Malibu", is made from coconut.

The growing shoots (pith) provide the international consumer with the delicacy known as "Palm Hearts" (or "King's Cabbage", as it is sometimes named). The coconut husk is used as fuel material, and the fiber - which can be of varying lengths, thickness and elasticity - is used in mats, ropes, furniture and mattress stuffing, sacks and brushes. The tough fiber is also used as a binding medium to assist slope stabilization in soil erosion projects. The trunks or stems can be laid across rivers as footbridges, and the wood is suitable for wonderful ornamental carvings, and for items such as ashtrays, soap dishes and desk furnishings. Beautiful furniture is also produced from the wood of coconut trees.

Please come to Zanzibar and let yourself relax in the shadow of one of these exceptional exotic trees!


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