In Trinidad and Tobago, there are many coconut vendors located around the Queens Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain. These vendors are very skillful at opening coconuts. The tool that they use is called a cutlass aka machete and it must be very sharp when opening coconuts.
Some vendors keep a few of their coconuts in an ice box so they can be sold chilled but the majority are sold unchilled. It is a big business. What most people do is, they would purchase a coconut and it would be cut open right in front of them (this process only takes a few seconds) and then it is handed to the customer with a straw! Real service! The customer drinks the coconut water and hands the empty coconut back to the vendor. If the customer wishes, the coconut can be cut open so they can eat the jelly.
Another alternative is the coconuts can be cut in such a way that all you have to do is to take a knife and dig open the coconut to get to the coconut water. So some people choose to have the coconuts cut this way and then take them home to do as they please. If they are not skillful with the cutlass as I am, they would just have to leave the jelly alone.
You will be amazed (if you have never seen a sight like this before) at how quickly these vendor cut open a coconut. It looks very dangerous and it is if you do not know what you are doing.
My husband is from St. Vincent and he is very familiar with using a cutlass, I on the other hand, have not made friends this tool. I keep far away from it. We have a coconut tree behind our house and most mornings my husband would pick a few and cut them.
For the unskilled person, place the coconut on a hard surface preferable outside your house and cut the top part of the coconut. The bottom part is the part that connected the fruit, to the coconut, tree by a branch. Cut one part, turn the coconut slightly and cut again, repeat until the entire top is cut as seen in the pictures.
When angling the cutlass to cut the coconut, raise your hand in the air and then bring it down with a bit on force, angling the cutlass away from you.
If you cut the coconut too deep you may create a large hole and the coconut water may spill out. As soon as you realize that you have made an opening, pour the contents, coconut water, in to a glass or bowl.
Now what we do next is the cut the coconut open (into two) to access the soft insides called Jelly. Just cut the coconut (now void of coconut water) open – just apply a lot of pressure on the coconut when chopping and force it open by twisting the cutlass left and right and the coconut will break into two halves.
Another little trick that we do that makes the event fun is that we make a spoon with shell of the coconut (see pictures). This spoon is then used to scope out the coconut jelly which is white in color. When the coconut is young, the jelly is soft and sweet. When the coconut is a little more matured, the jelly is a little firmer in texture.
I am so excited to share these rare photos with you. You see on my visit to Trinidad in June 2011, a gentleman came to my mother’s house to pick some coconuts. She sells to them wholesale. The guy climbed the tree (you have to be very skilled to climb a coconut tree. He is so brave), tried a rope around the bunch coconuts and then slowly released the bunch to the ground. Another gentleman was at the bottom of the tree to collect the coconuts. The guy who picked the coconuts simply slide down the rope to get down from the tree (it was so much easier to get down than to climb up the tree. The coconuts were counted and my mother was paid. The men left to conduct their business of selling coconuts retail. The average price is now $7.00 Trinidad & Tobago dollars.