Imagine that you’re stranded on an island where your only immediate source of food and water is from coconuts.  You don’t have any tools, and you haven’t stumbled on appropriate rocks that can be used to pry open the husks and shells.  What do you do?  Well, there’s an alternative that will work almost every time, and all you need is some elbow grease and a little bit of patience.

Finding the Right Coconut

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t open green and fresh coconuts as they are under-developed and don’t contain a lot of free water.  Most of the moisture is still trapped in the husk and meat, and the reward for your effort isn’t going to be that great.  Instead, take a coconut that looks like it’s been laying around for a while, and don’t let their wrinkles or age fool you.  Give it a good shake, and if you’re hear water sloshing around inside, then it’s perfect for cracking.

Cracking the Husk

Find a hard surface that has some abrasive qualities such as small rocks, coarse concrete or floor boards that have gaps between them.  You can use the edges from these items to dig into the husk and make it easier to separate the hard fibers.  Place the coconut on its side, hold on to something for support, and step on it with both feet.

Press, twist and grind your feet as you smash the coconut into the surface.  It will start to develop cracks that you can use to peel off sections of the husk.  Keep repeating the process until you’re able to remove all of the fibers and end up with the nut.  You can also slam the heel of your foot into the husk once it starts to crack for some additional help.  However, it’s important that you are wearing decent footwear or finding a way to protect your soles from injury.

Opening the Nut

The next challenge is to open the nut itself.  Fortunately, it’s not that difficult, and all you need is a large, round stone or another nut to get the job done.  Hold the nut that you want to open in one hand as you smash its side with the other one.  All it takes is a couple of good whacks to crack the shell, but you want to be careful not to let the water spill out once it’s opened.  To avoid this, crack the shell while the coconut is on its side, but quickly turn it up so the water settles on the bottom and doesn’t leak out.

It’s also important that the object you’re using to do the cracking is denser and harder than the nut you’re trying to open, otherwise you can end up breaking the tool instead.  This takes a little practice and finesse, but it really works.  Once the nut is opened and you’ve consumed the water, you can take a sharp stone or even your knife to pick away at the meat.

While this isn’t the ideal solution, it’s worth remembering when other options are not available.  It may take some practice, along with some time and effort, but you’ll get access to food and water that can tide you over until you find better sources.