2019 Feature Regional Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(First of Four Parts)

Reynaldo Hiligan, in his social media account, begged President Rodrigo R. Duterte about the situation of the price of copra.  “Our beloved president.  We hope you give coconut farmers some justice regarding the price of copra.  It’s only P2.30 for the whole price of a coconut.”

            A teacher from Davao shared the post and commented: “The price of copra is very cheap but the coconut oil is expensive.  What is the Department of Agriculture doing?  When will it be able to help the thousands of coconut farmers in the Philippines?”

            The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the government’s agency tasked for the coconut industry, wrote in its website: “The fluctuation of domestic copra market is cyclical and this is beyond the control of the PCA or any government agency.  This is because the domestic copra price is dependent to the coconut oil price in the global market.

            “The global coconut oil price, on the other hand, is determined or affected by the supply and demand situation of other vegetable oils (that is, oil palm, soybean, rapeseed, sunflower, olive oil, etc.) in the international market,” PCA continued. “Though the Philippines is the biggest exporter of coconut oil in the world, coconut oil is just one of the many vegetable oils produced globally.  As such, its price is greatly affected by the movement of prices of other vegetable oils particularly the palm oil which is the biggest among the internationally-traded vegetable oils (35%) and soybean oil, the second biggest vegetable oil (29%).”

            Since December 2017, the price of palm oil in the world market has been going down.  This explains the very low price of copra as companies in the international market using vegetable oils buy more palm oil as the supply is high and the price is low.  “But if the supply of palm oil goes down,” PCA said, “prices of vegetable oils (including coconut) will again go up.”

            Though copra price fluctuation is beyond the control of the government, it is very much aware of its impact to the coconut farmers.  This is the reason why the Department of Agriculture has been trying to find some possible solution to the problem.  One of these is finding other products from coconut that can exported to other countries.

            Coconut water – also known as buko juice or coco water – as one of the products that has high potential abroad.  It must be recalled that during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, he hailed coco water as one of the country’s most promising new export opportunities.

            “Drinking what they call coco water, and what we call buko juice, is a growing trend in the US,” Aquino told the press when he returned from a working visit to the United States.  “Because of its nutrients, because it is natural and environment friendly, it is becoming the new natural sports drink in America and is now a hundred-million-dollar industry.”

            Coco water is the clear liquid found in young green coconuts.  American nutritionist Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, calls it a “perfectly good option” for people who want to stay hydrated.

            “Coconut water is considered a sports drink because it contains many nutrients lost in physical exertion and sweating,” Susan Ferrandino points out in an article published in Livestrong.com.  “It is marketed as an isotonic beverage, which means that concentration levels of nutrients are the same as in human blood.  As a result, coconut water is absorbed readily into the body and can prevent dehydration after a workout.”

That’s going ahead of the story, however.  Let’s take a closer look at it.  “One cup of coconut water contains 46 calories,” writes Rebecca Slayton for Livestrong.com. “Carbohydrates make up the majority of the calorie content, with 8.9 grams per one-cup serving, of which 6.26 grams are from sugar.”

            Coconut water is a good source of the electrolyte potassium, and provides 600 milligrams per one-cup serving.  This is the reason why it’s good for those engaged in sports to drink coconut water.  “Normal potassium levels are necessary for regular cell function,” Slayton writes.  “When potassium levels drop too low, it affects your nervous system and can lead to an irregular heartbeat, which can be fatal.”

            But it’s not only because of potassium why it’s a good sports drink. “Coconut water also contains 252 milligrams per serving of sodium, which is another electrolyte lost during exercise through sweat,” Slayton claims.  “Sodium plays a role in your critical body functions by regulating the movement of water in and out of your cells.”

            Coconut water is indeed a perfect sports drink.  “The potassium and sodium content found in coconut water make it a smart choice when you become dehydrated, whether from physical activity or sickness when you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.”

            But that’s not all.  “Coconut water offers a good source of vitamins making it a nutritious drink option,” Slayton writes.  “One serving of coconut water provides 5.8 milligrams of vitamin C, along with folate, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6.  Coconut water also provides other key minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.”

            Despite the marketing hype, coconut water does have a few medical uses.  For those with hypertension, it can be drunk to lower blood pressure.  A study reported by The West Indian Medical Journal said coconut water was able to lower the systolic pressure by 71% and diastolic pressure by 29%. 

            While coconut water may support healthy blood pressure levels, it should not be used as replacement for blood pressure medications or potassium prescribed by your physicians, Ferrandino reminds.

            People who want to lose weight may drink coconut water instead of soft drinks and other sweet beverages.  Jessica Hendricks, in another Livestrong.com feature, writes: “Drinking coconut water in place of a high-calorie drink can help you lose weight over time because you’ll be consuming fewer calories in total.”

            It is suggested that you drink coconut water straight from newly harvest coconuts.  Some commercially produced coconut water drinks may include added sugar, which can further raise the sugar level.  The American Heart Association said that a diet high in sugar can increase your chance of weight gain and obesity.

            Another good thing about coconut water is its ability to combat cholesterol.  There was an animal study on the benefits of coconut water and cholesterol levels which was published in Journal of Medicinal Food in 2006. 

            “Scientists found that rats fed coconut water at a ratio of 4 millimeters per day per 100 grams of body weight showed lower overall ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, namely low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides,” Hendricks reported.  “In turn, the rats’ healthy or ‘good’ cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein – increased on coconut water diet.”

            Among Filipinos, drinking coconut water is highly recommended for those suffering from urinary tract infections.  As a natural diuretic, coconut water – along with antibiotics – helps flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.

            In his book, Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut, Dr. Bruce Fife claims coconut water makes kidney stones less likely to form and even helps flush existing ones out.  A study conducted at the Philippine General Hospital on patients with kidney and urethral stone problems, Fife reports, showed improvement when they started a regular intake of coconut water.

            Beauty conscious ladies may find a partner in coconut water.  Ivana Saragjinova, in an article published in oldnaturalcures.com, shares this information: “Coconut water does not contain omega-3 fatty acids but it is rich in saturated acids that help to strengthen the skin.  It is therefore, a great ally of beauty.  It helps stimulate the production of collagen, which is responsible for the elasticity of the skin, and whose function weakens with age.  That’s why coconut water is great in fighting wrinkles, stretch marks, stains on the skin, lip care, and extracting make-up.”

            Diabetics can also benefit from drinking coconut water.  The PCA shares this bit of information: “Potassium content of water is remarkably high at all nut ages. Together with sodium and phosphorus, potassium content also tends to increase with the ages of the coconut to peak at nine months. This characteristic of coconut water makes it a very good drinking water for diabetics. Diabetics waking from a coma recover quickly after drinking coconut water.”

            Drink moderately, most health professionals urge.  This goes true, too, when it comes to coconut water.  “The high potassium level of coconut water can cause hyperkalemia, or too much potassium in the blood,” writes Kirsten Braun for the website of Women’s Health Queensland Wide, Inc.  “Hyperkalemia can lead to changes in heart rhythm which can be fatal.  People with heart conditions or kidney diseases need to be particularly careful about the amount of coconut water they consume.  Similarly, older people should also be cautious because as we age, our kidneys become less efficient at removing potassium from the blood.” (To be continued)

Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(Second of Four Parts)

            Although not a native of the Philippines, coconut can be considered as God’s gift to Filipinos.  It is called the “tree of life,” a moniker that couldn’t be truer in the country where the coconut industry provides a livelihood for one-third of the total population, according to data from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

            The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports coconut production in the Philippines grew at the rate of 5.3% per year from 1911 to 1929.  It increased by 5.2% from 1952 to 1966.

            Today, the Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of coconut products – after Indonesia.  The Philippine Statistics Authority reported about 3.6 million hectares of coconut trees are planted all over the country, dominating the landscape in 68 out of the total 81 provinces.

            Out from coconut, the following can be produced: coconut wine (locally known as “tuba”), buko juice, coconut vinegar, coconut sugar, and coconut delicacies (examples include buko pie and “bukayo”).

            Even before the price of copra went down, there were coconut farmers who engaged themselves in various ways of marketing their coconuts.  One of them is Benjamin R. Lao of barangay Eman in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

            When he inherited the 5-hectare farm land from his parents in 1998, there were already coconut trees growing.  Every three months, he harvested from as low as 400 to as high as 600 nuts.  Since commercial fertilizers were very expensive, he planted different nitrogen fixing species like Flemingia macrophylla, Desmodium rensonii and Indigofera anil in various parts of the farm.

            The leaves from these leguminous shrubs that fell below the ground became instant organic fertilizer for the coconut trees.  Several months later, the coconut yields markedly increased to 15,000 nuts per quarter.  “Some of my neighbors told me it was a miracle,” Lao says.

            Although the money he made from copra was good, he wanted to earn more.  After attending a seminar conducted by PCA, he thought of producing coconut sugar from the coconut sap or toddy.

            Lao learned from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that coconut toddy contains 12%-18% sugar in its natural form with important vitamins and amino acids.  It is also rich in nutrients and high in potassium. Phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, calcium and vitamin C.

            The flowers of the coconut tree provide the sap that is made into sugar.  In his research, Lao found out that a coconut tree in good stand can yield an average of two liters of sap daily.  At least four coconut trees are needed to produce one kilograms of sugar per day.

            “The production of coconut sugar is very simple,” he says.  “It is just a natural process of heat evaporation to convert liquid sap to solid form of sugar granules.  It requires no complicated and high-cost machineries or equipment nor a huge capital.”

            What one thing about coconut sugar is that is all natural.  That is why it is recommended to people with diabetes, a disease that afflicts more than 5 million Filipinos. “Coconut sugar has low glycemic index, a measure of blood sugar, thus good for diabetics and those having prostate problems,” Lao says.  “It has also glutamic acid, the same ingredient that can be found in Viagra.”

            In the beginning, he only sells the locally-produced coconut product inside his farm.  Believing there was an untapped market for such product, he hired people and started producing other alternative sweeteners like coco honey and coco sap drink that are used for desserts and other delicacies.

            Lao later registered these products with the Department of Trade and Industry under the moniker Donnabelle – a combination of the names of his two daughters.  He started distributing his products in some outlets in nearby areas and the cities of Davao, Digos, General Santos and Butuan.  Outside of Mindanao, his coconut sugar is being sold in Cebu and Metro Manila.

            Due to the increasing demand for his products, he decided to incorporate Lao Integrated Farms Inc. in 2009.  Since then, he has been exporting his products to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries.  “My coconut sugar is guaranteed 100-percent free from chemicals,” he assures.

            But it’s not only coconut sugar that is very popular abroad.  Teriyaki all-dip sauce, another coconut-based product, is also a hit among foreign consumers.  People who buy his products are assured that they are fit for human consumption as his farm has earned various local and international organic and safety certifications.

            Today, 80% of his coconut products are exported.  He credited this achievement to continued research.  Despite the success and awards he received, he never stopped doing studies on how to improve the quality of his products. 

            In fact, he was named by DOST as a magsasaka-siyentista.  “As a farmer-scientist,” he says, “I was able to focus on researching about coconut sap products.  It took us eight months to study on how to make export-quality coconut syrup.” (To be continued)

Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(Third of Four Parts)

There’s more to coconut than just copra.

            “An array of products vital to man’s daily life can be derived from this amazing tree,” says Dr. Patricio Faylon, a recognized agricultural policy expert and a luminary in research and development community. “The Philippines is fortunate to have planted large areas to this crop, making the country one of the top coconut producers in the world.”

            Copra or dried coconut meat is the main products of coconuts.  It has high oil content, as much as 64%.  Coconut oil, which is the most readily digested among all fats of general use in the entire world, furnishes about 9,500 calories of energy per kilo.  Its chief competitors are soya bean oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.

            “It is not enough that we plant the most number of trees or produce the highest number of nuts,” pointed out Dr. Faylon.  “It is getting the highest value and benefits from this crop that matters most.  The best way to do this is to transform the nuts and other coconut parts into high-value products.”

            One such product is virgin coconut oil (VCO).  Most scientists believe coconut oil is most potent when it’s virgin – that is, extracted through pressing without the use of heat.  Thanks to the pioneering work of the late Dr. Julian Banzon and his protégé, Dr. Teresita Espino, the chemistry of virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been known and its beneficial effects on the human body have been confirmed.  

            “VCO is a natural oil from fresh, mature kernel of the coconut,” explains the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) in its Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies.  “It can be obtained through mechanical or natural means.  It can also be processed with or without the use of heat.”

            Unlike the commercial coconut oil, VCO does not undergo chemical refining, bleaching, or deodorizing that leads to the alteration of the oil.  The product is suitable for consumption without the need for further processing.

            In Davao Region, one entrepreneur who uses VCO in his products is Alvin Louie Ang from Pantukan, Compostela Valley.  He has developed beauty products with VCO as the main ingredient.

            “I decided to broaden the use of coconuts, which are abundant in my province, by creating products which are considered a necessity,” Ang says.  He thought of beauty soap.  “These days, it is really hard to find an organic soap of good quality that is not very expensive.  With that, I was inspired to make some VCO-based beauty soaps and perfumes.”

            In the United States, VCO has increasingly becoming popular in natural food circles and with vegans.  It was described in a New York Times article as having a “haunting, nutty, vanilla flavor” that also has a touch of sweetness that works well with baked goods, pastries, and sautés.

            It was the late National Scientist Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit, touted to be the Father of VCO, who popularized the coconut product.  His book, The Truth About Coconut Oil, became a bestseller and elevated coconut oil from folk medicine to a scientific therapy.  He found that VCO is sort of a drug “that regulates the body’s functions and defense mechanism. It restores the normal balance of tissues or cells that have become dysfunctional.”

            Since the publication of the book fourteen years ago, the VCO has gone a long way.  Because of many anecdotal evidences, which are hard to ignore, several studies have been carried out on it.

            Last year, during the First World Coconut Congress, a neonatologist pointed out that VCO can be used as adjuvant treatment for cancer.  In the Philippines, nine Filipinos are diagnosed with cancer every hour, based on recent data released by the Department of Health and the Philippine Cancer Society Inc.

            “Clinical trials on the use of VCO in ketogenic diet as supportive treatment for cancer has been shown to be highly promising under a clinical trial at the Paracelsus Medical University (PMU) in Salzburg, Austria,” said a press released circulated by the Growth Publishing.

            The home-produced VCO is a recognized source of beneficial fatty acid metabolized in the liver as ketones in ketogenic diets.  In the PMU clinical trial, the target is for ketogenic diet to achieve the so-called “Warburg effect,” where cancer cells are prevented from using glycolysis in order to produce the organic chemical ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) needed in the multiplication of cancer cells.

            “Based on the results of rigorous preclinical and clinical studies performed thus far, the ketogenic diet would appear to be a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers,” the PMU study said.

            Dr. Mary Newport she cited the PMU study in her presentation during the coconut congress.  “It’s now being (used) for cancer because cancer cells like sugar.  Some cancer cells use 200 times more sugar than the normal cell.  They ferment sugar, the mitochondria ferments sugar.  They don’t metabolize it normally.  But most cancer cells don’t use ketones effectively as fuel,” she said.

            In her presentation, “Combining Coconut Oil and Low Carbohydrate, Higher Fat Diet for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other Diseases,” Dr. Newport said: “Ketogenic diet attempts to starve the tumor, the cancer cells. But basically, your healthy cells and your brain can use ketones.  So, it can help in cancer.”

            VCO is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) that is converted to monolaurin by the human body.  “When MCFAs are metabolized (in the human body), ketone bodies are created in the liver,” writes Ty Bollinger, a best-selling author, medical researcher, and health freedom advocate. 

            But what excites researchers about VCO is its lauric acid content.  “Fifty percent of coconut oil is lauric acid, a compound found in human breast milk, which makes it one of the best food sources for this nutrient available,” Bollinger notes. Lauric acid, if you care to know is beneficial in deterring parasites, bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses.

            According to some studies, one tablespoon of VCO contains 14 grams of total fat, of which 12 grams are saturated.  Most of the saturated fat found in most food like meat and cheese are considered long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).  In comparison, the saturated fat in coconut oil mostly comprised of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).  

            The MCTs are easier for the human body to metabolize than LCTs.  “While MCTs do not shrink cancer by themselves, but they have proved promising as a treatment for cancer,” a report said.

            Unknowingly, VCO is also good for those having sexual problems.  The results of a clinical study done by the University of Santo Tomas on the effects of the extra VCO on cholesterol levels showed some of the participants to have “higher sex drive during the test phase.”

            “It was an interesting observation that 13% of the VCO takers experienced becoming sexually active in the whole duration of their participation in the VCO study,” said Dr. Christina Binag, who headed the study.

            The Philippines has introduced VCO to the world in 2000-2001 and remains to be world’s number one VCO exporter.  In 2015, VCO was exported to 46 countries, the United Coconut Association of the Philippines said.  The top importers were United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Japan.  Other destinations were Belgium, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Australia.  Smaller volumes went to Malaysia, Brazil, Taiwan, South Africa, France, China, Singapore and Czechoslovakia. (To be concluded)

Coconut: Major export crop of Filipino farmers

(Last of Four Parts)

            Eight out of 10 vinegar products sold in the local markets contain “fake ingredients” and thus could be harmful to consumers, scientists of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reported.

            Researchers from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST line agency, use isotope-based analytical techniques to distinguish vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources from those which are derived from petroleum-based sources.

            “Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products,” explained Raymond Sucgang, head of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section.

            His research team was totally surprised by their findings.  “One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” pointed out Sucgang.

As acetic acid comes from fossil fuels and by-product in the production of diesel and oil, it is very dirty.  As such, products containing this inorganic type of acid are dangerous to human health.

            “Synthetic acetic acid should not be used in food production or as condiment,” Sucgang said, adding that products containing synthetic materials have impurities “and these impurities, according to medical journals, can cause cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.”

            Vinegar, defined as a liquid fit for human consumption and contains specified amount of acetic acid and water, has long been used around the world as a basic seasoning in the preparation of cooking of certain foods because its sharp taste makes it so useful and versatile.

            “Vinegar adds flavor to vegetable and meat products,” M. Plessi wrote in Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition. “It is one of the ingredients of salad dressings, sauces, such as tabasco and tomato products, such as ketchups, mustard, and aspics.  Mixed with oil and salt, it makes the classic vinaigrette, and it can be used as a condiment for salad and as a sauce for cold, cooked vegetables, meat and fish.”

            Vinegar is one of the oldest fermentation products known to man as its history dates back to around 2000 BC, having been considered for a long time as the poor relative among fermented food products.  It was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

            “(Vinegar) is produced from raw materials of different agricultural origin containing starch and sugars, that are subjected to a process of double fermentation, alcoholic, and acetous,” says the book, Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention.

            Among the raw materials that can be used in producing vinegar are cider, grapes or wine, molasses, sorghum syrup, honey, fruits, maple syrup, sugarcane, palm, potatoes, malt, grain, whey, and coconut wine or tuba.

            But it’s not only tuba that can be made into vinegar – even the coconut water.  “Coconut water and coconut sap may be processed into vinegar,” pointed out Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

            In a feature published by state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA), Lilybeth Ison wrote: “For coconut water alone, the country produces 15 billion matured nuts yearly, with farmers focused only on harvesting the coconut meat and throwing away the other parts of the nuts, including water.”

            Assuming that each nut contains one-fourth liter of coconut water, the volume of coconut water wasted is estimated at 3.5 billion liters, Piñol said, adding that coconut vinegar could be “an alternative income generator” for coconut producing communities.

            “Vinegar-making is a traditional source of income for many coconut farmers in the country but it has reportedly been ignored and neglected by the government in the past,” Ison wrote.

            Vinegar is made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol. “Bacteria are used to ferment (or break down) the ethanol into by-products including acetic acid,” wrote Bethany Moncel in an article. “This acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique, although it contains other substances including vitamins, minerals and flavor compounds.”

            Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies, published by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has come up with a simple method on how to convert coconut sap into natural vinegar. Here’s how:

            The tuba is collected by tapping (making a small incision) on the tender unopened inflorescence.  For easy collection, the inflorescence is slowly bent downward.  The collected sap is poured in a wide large container and then covered with a clean net to allow aeration and prevent contamination. The sap is allowed to ferment naturally for 60 days.

            Sixty days later, the fermented sap is pasteurized by boiling for 5 to 10 minutes at 60-65 degrees Centigrade to maintain the desired quality of the matured vinegar with at least pH 4.  It is allowed to cool before placing it in sterile bottles.  The bottles should be covered tightly and sealed.

            DOST suggested that the sap vinegar be aged for one year.  “The color of the vinegar changes as it ages, from cloudy white to light yellow to a clear light brown as it further matures,” the publication stated.

            The publication also reminded to observe strict compliance with the quality control standards during the whole process.  “This simple organic process of fermentation and pasteurization make the technology ideal for small- and medium-scale enterprise,” it said.

            Vinegar, by the way, is one of the most useful products that can treat various health problems. “Vinegar amazing benefits includes treating allergies, balancing alkali, fighting microbial, treating hypertension, fighting cancer, fighting oral bacteria, promoting hair growth, maintaining skin elasticity, lowering high blood sugar, helps burn fat, helps reduce cholesterol level, relieves acid reflux, and improves gut health,” writes Michael Jessimy, author of “Amazing Health Benefits of Vinegar.” – ###

AGRITRENDS:

COCONUT: MAJOR EXPORT CROP OF FILIPINO FARMERS

Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

(Last of Four Parts)

Eight out of 10 vinegar products sold in the local markets contain “fake ingredients” and thus could be harmful to consumers, scientists of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reported.

Researchers from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST line agency, use isotope-based analytical techniques to distinguish vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources from those which are derived from petroleum-based sources.

“Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products,” explained Raymond Sucgang, head of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section.

His research team was totally surprised by their findings.  “One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” pointed out Sucgang.

As acetic acid comes from fossil fuels and by-product in the production of diesel and oil, it is very dirty.  As such, products containing this inorganic type of acid are dangerous to human health.

“Synthetic acetic acid should not be used in food production or as condiment,” Sucgang said, adding that products containing synthetic materials have impurities “and these impurities, according to medical journals, can cause cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.”

Vinegar, defined as a liquid fit for human consumption and contains specified amount of acetic acid and water, has long been used around the world as a basic seasoning in the preparation of cooking of certain foods because its sharp taste makes it so useful and versatile.

“Vinegar adds flavor to vegetable and meat products,” M. Plessi wrote in Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition. “It is one of the ingredients of salad dressings, sauces, such as tabasco and tomato products, such as ketchups, mustard, and aspics.  Mixed with oil and salt, it makes the classic vinaigrette, and it can be used as a condiment for salad and as a sauce for cold, cooked vegetables, meat and fish.”

Vinegar is one of the oldest fermentation products known to man as its history dates back to around 2000 BC, having been considered for a long time as the poor relative among fermented food products.  It was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

“(Vinegar) is produced from raw materials of different agricultural origin containing starch and sugars, that are subjected to a process of double fermentation, alcoholic, and acetous,” says the book, Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention.

Among the raw materials that can be used in producing vinegar are cider, grapes or wine, molasses, sorghum syrup, honey, fruits, maple syrup, sugarcane, palm, potatoes, malt, grain, whey, and coconut wine or tuba.

But it’s not only tuba that can be made into vinegar – even the coconut water.  “Coconut water and coconut sap may be processed into vinegar,” pointed out Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

In a feature published by state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA), Lilybeth Ison wrote: “For coconut water alone, the country produces 15 billion matured nuts yearly, with farmers focused only on harvesting the coconut meat and throwing away the other parts of the nuts, including water.”

Assuming that each nut contains one-fourth liter of coconut water, the volume of coconut water wasted is estimated at 3.5 billion liters, Piñol said, adding that coconut vinegar could be “an alternative income generator” for coconut producing communities.

“Vinegar-making is a traditional source of income for many coconut farmers in the country but it has reportedly been ignored and neglected by the government in the past,” Ison wrote.

Vinegar is made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol. “Bacteria are used to ferment (or break down) the ethanol into by-products including acetic acid,” wrote Bethany Moncel in an article. “This acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique, although it contains other substances including vitamins, minerals and flavor compounds.”

Compendium of Commercially-Viable Coconut Technologies, published by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has come up with a simple method on how to convert coconut sap into natural vinegar. Here’s how:

The tuba is collected by tapping (making a small incision) on the tender unopened inflorescence.  For easy collection, the inflorescence is slowly bent downward.  The collected sap is poured in a wide large container and then covered with a clean net to allow aeration and prevent contamination. The sap is allowed to ferment naturally for 60 days.

Sixty days later, the fermented sap is pasteurized by boiling for 5 to 10 minutes at 60-65 degrees Centigrade to maintain the desired quality of the matured vinegar with at least pH 4.  It is allowed to cool before placing it in sterile bottles.  The bottles should be covered tightly and sealed.

DOST suggested that the sap vinegar be aged for one year.  “The color of the vinegar changes as it ages, from cloudy white to light yellow to a clear light brown as it further matures,” the publication stated.

The publication also reminded to observe strict compliance with the quality control standards during the whole process.  “This simple organic process of fermentation and pasteurization make the technology ideal for small- and medium-scale enterprise,” it said.

Vinegar, by the way, is one of the most useful products that can treat various health problems. “Vinegar amazing benefits includes treating allergies, balancing alkali, fighting microbial, treating hypertension, fighting cancer, fighting oral bacteria, promoting hair growth, maintaining skin elasticity, lowering high blood sugar, helps burn fat, helps reduce cholesterol level, relieves acid reflux, and improves gut health,” writes Michael Jessimy, author of “Amazing Health Benefits of Vinegar.” – ###

 

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