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Jan 14, 2012 11:29 PM

Where to buy unpeeled green coconuts?

I love drinking coconut water from Thai young coconuts. The problem is, about 25% of the Thai young coconuts I buy seem to be bad—i.e., they're not sweet, and they make me sick if I drink them. And I can see no way to tell if they're going to be bad without tasting them.

In my experience, stores that have the highest turnover of these coconuts and that refrigerate them tend to have the freshest ones. But even from Berkeley Bowl, which has a high turnover and good refrigeration, I have bought a number of bad coconuts. I even bought a case from them recently, which they said they had just gotten in, but within about 3 days, they were bad.

I've read that green coconuts, with the green skin intact, keep longer than those that have been peeled prior to shipment.

So my question is: Is it possible to buy unpeeled green coconuts in the Bay Area, preferably the East Bay (I live in Berkeley)? I love them oh so much, but I'm tired of throwing away or getting sick from unfresh coconuts.

(By the way, just to be clear: I don't need the coconuts to come from Thailand. I'd probably prefer ones from closer to California, like Mexico or Hawaii, because they'd probably be fresher. It's just that the only young coconuts I've seen in the stores are from Thailand, and they're usually labeled as "Thai young coconuts," though I realize that other countries grow and drink young coconuts as well.)

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    1. Even in Florida, we get a lot from Thailand. We always search out the ones from Costa Rica or Dominican Republic

      1 Reply
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        Do you prefer the ones from closer by because they're fresher?

        And have you found skin-intact coconuts, or only skinned ones?

      2. I will keep an eye out at Latino markets, but this is going to be a tough one. For the year i lived in Guatemala one of the first thing vendors do is hack off that skin before selling them.

        Maybe the problem is the Thai variety. Have you been trying Mexican markets?

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          I haven't tried Latino markets, but maybe I'll take a trip to Mi Pueblo for starters. Berkeley bowl has Mexican young coconuts, but these are even worse than the Thai ones, because the husk is completely removed on these, and they're also less sweet.

          1. re: rworange

            I just stopped by a couple of Latin markets in Richmond, and all I found were some moldy white husk-free coconuts and some boxed coconut water. The search continues...

          2. At every coconut farm I have seen, the husks are removed before shipment because of the extra weight and volume, and the husks are dried out and used for fuel.

            16 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Well, apparently that's not true in places like Singapore and India, because if you look at the photos on you can see that the green skins are intact. But it may be true if the coconuts are being shipped far, which is ironic, because that's when they seem to most need the skin to preserve freshness. Anyone else ever seen skin-intact green coconuts in the Bay Area?

              1. re: damian

                Well, yes, but that green husk is a bitch to get off. You have to have a machete to get it off ... and more than a little skill. The dried brown hairy husk is like butter in comparison.

                How about ordering online

                Don't know how true it is but I've read the Thai coconuts take six weeks in transit, 30 percent arrive rotten despite being dipped in chemicals prior to shipment. I'll pretty much that business about dipping is true after learning how bananas are screwed with in shipment.

                1. re: rworange

                  Very interesting. Thanks. Any idea where you read that? I've cut coconuts with machetes before, on a remote island in Puerto Rico, and I'm willing to do it again in exchange for freshness.

                  1. re: damian

                    Which part?

                    The tough green shell is personal experience.

                    This discussion was as good as any with lots of links about green coconuts

                    This is a good green coconut site with a snazzy opener and info links about dipping

                    1. re: rworange

                      rworange, you are an amazing resource. If I can find some good coconuts with a rate of rot significantly lower than 30%, I might just invest in that snazzy opener.

                      As for ordering online, has great prices...if you don't include shipping. With shipping, the price is astronomical.

                      I guess I'm going to have to keep searching. Maybe I can convince the grocer at Berkeley Bowl to buy them, but their shelves are so full that I doubt he'll go for it :/

                      1. re: damian

                        Damien- if you ever see true young coconut please post!!! I've bought young coconut at Mi Pueblo that wasn't spoiled and had plenty of juice but the coconut meat had already started to mature. I would love to find the type with the coconut meat still in that soft-gelatinous stage.

                        1. re: demitasse04

                          I haven't found any new information since I last posted. I suggest you read through the thread to see your various options, if you haven't already.

                2. re: damian

                  In my experience, the best quality Thai young coconuts are from 99 Ranch. I'm not convinced Berkeley Bowl has a high turnover since I never see people buying them, I often see mold on the white exterior and they usually don't pass the shake-and-hear-nothing test. Oh and they are more expensive than 99 Ranch, where I often buy them by the case.

                  I also used to live in India and Sri Lanka and would have the green coconuts w/ the skin everyday. Often I would buy them on the road from a vendor who would cut them for me, but I also had a guy that would sell me a number of them with the tops cut off and only the soft flesh keeping the water in and drink those within a couple of days. 99% of the time they were not as sweet as Thai young coconuts, and 66% of the time the meat was not scoopable, even if I picked my own from the bunch. I think its more difficult to tell how fresh they are with all the green skin on there. As a general rule of thumb you shouldn't hear liquid sloshing around when you shake them or see cracks in the white outer layer, which means that they are too old to drink. Honestly I have never bought a bad coconut that was neither not sweet or made me sick, but maybe that's just luck?

                  1. re: oniontears

                    Any tips on how to open them? I've never done it myself.

                      1. re: Cynsa

                        Faster method: Buy a cheap vegetable cleaver from Chinatown. Chop the top 3 times, to create a triangle. Pull out the lid and you're done. May take practice to get a good triangle.

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          the youtube video was a simple method. Yield from one young coconut: 8 oz. coconut water and ample soft meat. Purchased at the 23rd and Mission Produce market for $1.59 (my photo will not post)
                          I am drinking the fresh coconut water daily as a treatment for gout.

                          1. re: Cynsa

                            So when I saw young coconut today at Grocery Outlet I bought one. I didn't open it nearly as neatly and gracefully as in the video, but it wasn't too hard. I actually liked the other video I saw where she inverted a glass over the hole and then turned it over, which seemed like an easier way to pour out the juice.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            I actually use a combination of cleaver with the video technique. I have the coconut on its side and hit that sweet spot she pointed out. It definitely takes practice, and I can't do it perfectly every time. Once I get the cleaver through I sit the coconut up (the cleaver in the shell holds the liquid in) and pry the lid off and invert over a glass, then scoop out the flesh! If i'm really lazy and don't want the flesh, I take a hammer and a clean screwdriver and make two holes in the shell (after taking the soft stuff off) and invert over glass.

                          3. re: oniontears

                            I'm curious if there's been any progress made finding unpeeled coconuts in the Bay Area since this topic was last active in June.

                            I moved here from South Florida where all I had to do was visit the "Swap Shop" and I would be swimming in vendors with fresh unpeeled coconuts. So far in the Bay I've only met one person who knew coconuts even *had* peels. My interest in them is almost exclusively for their water.

                            So I have two questions:
                            1) Anyone have any luck finding unpeeled coconuts (green,yellow,brown,orange, etc) around here?
                            2) If not, then how fresh are the white coconuts (usually "young thai coconuts") and do they have good water content?

                            And what's a good source for the YTC? Whole Foods seems to think their coconuts are amazing (, but I haven't heard anyone on this thread mention Whole Foods. I've seen the ones at 99 Ranch, and there's also Grocery Outlet. I just want fresh coconut water, preferably from coconuts not treated with any chemicals or fungicides, pesticides, etc.

                            Any thoughts?

                            ps. seems great, it it weren't for their insane shipping costs. $70 shipping to get it to the South Bay by ground, $235 to send 12 coconuts in 3 days. Yeowch! :)

                            1. re: toastysquirrel

                              By "brown" unpeeled coconuts do you mean the hard-shelled ones? Those used to be easy to find, but they've been displaced by the Thai young coconuts. In my fairly limited experience, the Thai young coconuts have more "water"; however, my understanding is that all of them are treated on the outside with some rather nasty chemicals.

                              I would try Asian or Mexican markets, which might have a bigger selection.

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