by Nate Furler, Marketing Specialist
With my past being peppered with baking experience, my initial reaction was one of shock. After all, anytime I would use shredded coconut in a baking recipe, I knew I had to be careful whether it called for sweetened coconut, or unsweetened. To find out from our Grocery manager that we would soon be carrying coconut sugar and coconut nectar was quite the surprise. Being in the natural foods industry, I anticipated the second sentence to include the words highly-processed. Raw coconut meat is not all that sweet, so where does the sugar come from?ou may remember an article by one of our Wellness buyers Karina Klug, published in 2010, that touted the many benefits of consumption and external application of organic extra-virgin coconut oil. Now a new line of products is bringing coconut derivatives back into the spotlight, and I must say it seems to be quite the sweet deal at this point.
It turns out that the sweetness comes from coconut “sap” and not the mature coconut fruit. The process involves tapping the blossom prior to the formation of the coconut fruit. Though the idea brings to mind mental images of drilling taps for maple sap to make syrup, the process is quite different. First of all, the temperature is nowhere near freezing because we are talking about the tropics. Second, once tapped, these trees and their blossoms can continuously excrete the sap for up to twenty years.
The immediately secreted sap is oyster white in color, has a nearly neutral pH, and is inherently sweet tasting by nature. The sap also has nutritional qualities such as an abundance of 17 Amino Acids, broad spectrum B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and minerals like Potassium, Nitrogen, and Magnesium. And, there’s more. The Coconut Nectar and Crystals have a Glycemic Index (GI) of only 35, which makes it friendly to diabetics. By comparison, honey has a GI between 55 and 83, and regular sugar between 65 and 100. Raw Organic Blue Agave nectar still wins out with a GI of 30.
In the realm of sustainability, the process from harvest to final product for coconut sap is by far more sustainable than any other sweetener. As mentioned before, the trees can excrete the sap continuously for up to 20 years. The sap is inherently sweet, and therefore, does not need chemicals, excessive heat, or enzymes to reach its saleable state as nectar and crystals.
At the Co-op, we now carry products from the company Coconut Secret that include Raw Coconut Crystals, Coconut Nectar, and Coconut Vinegar. Also available through the company is Coconut Aminos Seasoning Sauce, a replacement for flavorful aminos and soy sauce. All products through this company are made using raw methods of either fermenting the sap (for up to 1 year), or evaporating it (for only 45-90 minutes at low temperatures) after the sap is collected.