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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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hats, parasols, sieves, mats, etc., made with the epidermis removed from the leaves or the fibrous tissue covering the coconut, are constantly made by blacks in their spare time. Turners prepare, with the coconut shell, artistic vases, which are seen in the rich houses, set in gold and silver feet. Coconut charcoal is used by goldsmiths and painters. With the coconut pulp, grated, cooked and added with sugar, prepare the cocada, which is one of the skills of the Brazilian housewife.

This tasty sweet, a specialty of the religious Ursulinas and other nunneries of Bahia, and prepared there with particular excellence, and with other fruit sweets, ananas, mango, genipapo, pitanga, etc., constantly sent to Europe, as Gifts. Coconut oil from walnut pulp, obtained by moderate heating and expression, and of a whitish yellow color, very transparent, and equal, in smoothness and purity of flavor, to the best olive oil and almond oil. With ten coconuts, one or more pounds of oil can be prepared; and if properly treated, will not contain mucilaginous or resinous substance.

Coast of Bahia

Seeing the coconut tree planted from Ilheus to Pernambuco, all along the coast, on such a large scale, it is a wonder that Brazil still pays such a heavy tribute for Portuguese olive oil. Likewise, soap factories could extract this precious product to their advantage, as they would invite both the low price of coconut (when very twenty cruzados), and the expectation of becoming even cheaper by increasing cultivation at river mouths, ensuring that these factories make a profit by exploiting the bark fibers to make ropes and tow. The records of the piaiaba factory in Itaparica told me that with two hundred and sixty coconuts one can get a clean cairo sign suitable for ropes and cables, not to mention the tow. Although coconut trees thrive only in the immediate vicinity of the sea, they are easily grown on a legua-wide stretch of land, inland. And, giving each coconut tree twelve coconuts annually, 5,000 feet would produce 230 good-quality coconut nuts and 6,000 pounds of olive oil or 10,000 pounds of solid natural soda soap.

The common dende coconut, which Brazilians themselves claim to have been brought from Guinea by blacks, is as abundant as the coconut tree of Bahia, especially in the latter province and in Pernambuco, not only near the sea, but also inland of the continent. The preparation of palm oil is given to blacks, and therefore the extraction is done without care. They usually heat in the sun or mild fire the ripe coconuts, similar in size to a plum or a pear, crush them, and juice them cold, or after boiling in water. The oil thus obtained, which is bright yellow in color and has no unpleasant odor, similar to that of the root of violet, contains almost a third of its weight of wax. As with the wonderful castor oil, its excellence depends on the care with which the heat is built up, without developing the woody acid.

This common palm oil is used, of which a single bunch produces close to two pounds, both in the kitchen, being especially appreciated by blacks, as for lamps and for fomentations.

Preparing Dende oil

In this last job, blacks have it as a remedy for skin ailments, and often one sees in the streets of Bahia a busy black man rubbing himself with a roasted palm coconut, and at the same time gets cleaned up to go to the nightly dances.

Piacabeira

The third species of palm, among which I must mention here, the piacabeira, is of great importance to the Brazilian navy, and replaces, in many ways the hemp, which the tropical part of Brazil cannot produce. Its spike reaches about twenty feet high, and has a large plum of rising leaves, whose pendulum unravels in length in light-black or dark brown filaments. Also the sheath tears in equal, more or less regular strands. Sometimes strung filaments, six to eight feet long hang around the stem. These filaments are prepared by macerating in water, or in the damp sand of the seashore, and after smashing it and rubbing, the cell tissue is separated and that which is in between, is used for various objects. The strongest filaments, the thickness of a crow's feather, look like fins, and can serve the same purpose.

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