Ode to the Coconut Palm

Jun, 17 2018

Imagine a tropical island. The picture isn’t complete without the verdant presence of coconut palms, is it? Its distinctive silhouette acts as a herald, with promises of sandy beaches and clear blue seas underneath.

Coconut palms are not just ornamental signs of an island paradise; often called the Tree of Life, they are one of the most useful trees in the world. From its woody trunk all the way up to the swaying fronds, the coconut palm has been providing a bounty of natural resources to the Maldivian people for generations. 

Traditional Maldivian sailboats, known as dhoni, were built using coconut timber. Fibres extracted from the husk of the coconut, called coir, is used to make ropes and fishing nets. 

Palm fronds were used to make baskets and mats. The green of the leaves was removed, leaving behind the wood-like strips in the middle, which were collected and tied together to make brooms. Dried palm fronds were used to thatch roofs- an architectural feature still seen today on the villas at our resorts. 

Scraped coconut is one of the most common ingredients used to make many local dishes, as is coconut milk in almost all types of Maldivian curries. Even dried coconut shell halves were repurposed as bowls or attached to handles to make ladles.

Of course, visitors to the Maldives will surely know that there is nothing as refreshing in this tropical heat as a cool helping of coconut water, straight from the source. 

There is also another drink sourced from the coconut palm- toddy, the extracted and fermented coconut palm sap. The process of preparing the sap and then extracting it is called ‘toddy tapping’ and it used to be the second-most popular profession in the Maldives, after fishing.

The coconut palm is without a doubt the most important tree in the Maldives. Even though we don’t rely on them as heavily as we used to in the past, we still recognise its significance in our history and culture.