It was first at a family gathering when some of us were introduced to what is called the thaenga poo. In it’s initial stage, the colour and shape are very similar to that of a flower and I imagine that’s how it got the vernacular name.
In reality the actual coconut flowers are the ones that are visible on the tree and used to make the coconut blossom sugar.This which grows inside the coconut kernel is actually the sprouted part which then gives rise to the coconut sapling.It dawned on me only recently fairly recently when a good friend showed us one half of the coconut kernel with a fully developed sprout. It wasn’t anything the likes of which many of us had ever seen before.This is probably because at this stage the coconut is usually embedded in the ground ,on it’s way to developing into a young plant.
Sometimes coconuts are harvested at a stage when they are ‘over ripe’ (for want of a better word) or when they have matured to such an extent where the sprout forms and fully covers the inside. Since this is thought of as a rare natural occurrence ,it is regarded as a blessing ,a sign that represents good happenings in the home.
Now as far as the taste and texture go,it’s unusual and really delicious.The sprout carries all the nutrients required to nurture a new plant.So it is rich in healthy fats.The loose sort of air pocket like exterior resembles that of a natural sea sponge. But it still retains some body when one bites into it.The taste is that of a mildly sweet coconut milk with a slightly springy feel. I could eat it just as is and feel quite satiated.
However curiosity got the better of me and the internet was the place to search and seek if any recipes existed for this coconut sprout.Incidentally it’s also the largest form of edible sprout. I was quite surprised at the number of you tube videos that were available about the sprouted coconut.Two of these were shared by vegan foodies from other parts of the world. One even split the sprout open filled it with tomato and cucumber and ate it like a sandwich.She called it jungle bread !
Closer to home the thaenga poo is a much loved delicacy in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Kobbari puuvu bajjis are snacks where the entire sprout is dipped in a gram flour batter and deep fried. What excited me the most was the idea of ‘cultivating’ these coconut sprouts.
I’ve always wondered if dry coconuts could be put to some better use instead of being used up as fuel.Now with the option of developing the coconut sprout we are experimenting by sowing these dry coconuts and harvesting them once the leaves start to break the surface.They need to be partially sown in soil and watered frequently in order to facilitate sprouting.This could take anywhere from 2 to 4 months is what we are told.
If this works as we hope it does,it will lead to a more regular supply of the coconut sprout.The thaenga poo that we did manage to find inside one coconut was kept aside to try a simple recipe.
The idea was to keep the flavours light and simple without taking away from the natural taste of this unique ingredient.Into a tablespoon of coconut oil,set on low heat,went in a handful of peanuts, salt and a bit of chilli powder.After a minute or so of roasting , in went the fluffy bits of thaenga poo , fresh mint leaves and some black pepper. Once the mixture came together ( a minute and half) it was taken off the heat and set aside. After cooling add a light spritz of lemon juice and it’s done.
Roasted peanuts is a much favoured snack at home.With the addition of this thaenga poo it tasted even better.The thaenga poo when cooked turns soft,almost like butter.This is probably due to the oils that are present in the sprout. It also soaked up the salty flavours really well and tasted great with fresh local ingredients like mint and lemon.
I do hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did discovering this lovely treat.Living in ‘coconut country’ this is one special food that we must try to source. Talk to your farmer, grow your own,it’s easier than you may think!