SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany

A visit to the Coconut Development Authority fall 2006

Some of the roots of ethnobotany are in the field of economic botany. Economic botany studies the economic value of plants and the processes to bring plant products from the field to the market. In this section of the course the class takes time to learn about an industry that developed in part from the traditional uses of coconut oil.

The Coconut Development Authority produces virgin coconut oil. Virgin oil is processed from fresh, mature coconut kernel (coconut meat). The term "virgin" distinguishes the product from coconut oil produced from sun-dried coconut meat, termed "copra." Virgin coconut oil is a superior product for cooking and human consumption.

A key difference from locally produced "homemade" coconut oil is that the water is removed by a commercial dryer operating at between 60 Celsius and 70 Celsius prior to the oil being expelled. In the home and traditional production process the oil is heated to 100 Celsius (boiling point of water) and reaches higher temperatures in the final moments of boiling off the water. These higher levels of heat alter the oil's consistency, viscosity, color, and flavor.

The production process utilized by the Coconut Development Authority is outline below. This information was kindly provided by the CDA on a handout. The photos were taken by the instructor during the field trip. All errors are those of the instructor.

Images from a visit to the Coconut Development Authority
Coconut Development Authority Pohnpei Coconut Development Authority Pohnpei

  1. The husked coconuts are quality controlled to select the good nuts. Damaged nuts are rejected.
  2. The coconuts are then split into two halves and the meat is scooped out using knives to split to the nuts.
    coconut shells
    The scooped out meat is quality controlled and collected in wire baskets.
  3. The meat is then washed with clean, fresh running water.
  4. The water is allowed to drain and the meat is fed into a mechanical grater for grating the meat into pieces.
  5. The grated meat is fed onto a conveyor belt
    coconut dryer intake
    which travels at speed of about eleven inches per minute through a hot air chamber of 25 feet
    coconut dryer
    maintained at about 60 Celsius and 70 Celsius.
  6. The dried meat is then put into a hopper
    expeller input
    on the top of a mechanical expeller.
    coconut expeller
    The expeller expels the virgin coconut oil
    coconut oil collector
    and the pressed coconut kernel which is also edible.
    expeller dried meat output
    The virgin coconut oil is filtered
    oil collector filters
    and the clear oil is collected
    coconut in transfer containers
    and then transfered into a stainless steel container.

As in any economic activity, power is an important requirement
power panels

The CDA also produces ice bars from coconut milk in another room at the plant.
102691ice_bar_equip (42K)

The class is deeply appreciative of the tour and the willingness of the CDA to share their important work with the youth of the nation. Below the class is seen with the manager, Mr. Namio Nanpei.
102692group (44K) 102693class (45K)

EthnoherbEthnobotanyLee LingCOMFSM