Farmer Clarence grabs a machete and starts peeling back layers of coconut, making an indent small enough for me to poke my straw through and drink the refreshing water inside. He then hands me a wedge of coconut skin to use as a spoon and shows me how to peel out the young gel-like flesh inside.
“Not many people like the texture, they prefer the hard coconut flesh, but I just love it like this. Coconuts must be young though, about 5-7 weeks old,” he said
People use coconut gel in salads and to make delicious coconut ceviche, of which you can read about in my previous blog – A Caymankind welcome. “Once you pick a coconut, the tree will start producing another. The more you pick the coconuts (which are actually the seeds of the palm), the more prolific the tree.”
I can see why Clarence McLaughlin, who farms at Bodden Town in Grand Cayman, is fondly known as the “coconut man” around the island.
Cut the medium soft coconut meat into thin strips. Mix all the ingredients together. Chill or freeze. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve. Delicious and refreshing!
Tips from the author
But it’s not just the coconuts that have people coming back to his stall at the Camana Bay markets. It’s also his array of fresh and flavoursome leafy greens, mangos, local plums and an assortment of other vegetables and fruits.
Clarence owns and runs the largest greenhouse in the Cayman Islands at 10,000 square feet, which is soon to be extended by another 6,000 square feet.
"There is a misconception that you can’t grow food on this land hence the reason why we are importing up to 98 per cent of our food into the country. But in fact this is wrong. Food education is critical. Local farmers are producing more food than is being consumed and we need to let people know about this.”
Clarence is now selling his produce at pop-up markets set up at schools to provide parents with the opportunity and access to eat local and fresh foods.
“Food schools programs are essential in the Caribbean. Families need to know ‘where does food come from’ and understand what locally grown foods are available to them.”
Clarence is also delivering fruit and vegetable boxes to workplaces and homes around the island, so now there is no excuse not to eat ‘from paddock to plate’ in Grand Cayman.
Read more about the "coconut man" on my blog.