Coconuts in China

Hainan coconuts

Changing diet in China

China is not thought of as being a country that has coconuts. Traditional Chinese cooking does not use coconut oil; rather it uses pork fat. It is interesting to note that the Chinese are normally a very slim race even though their diet is high in saturated fat. As has noted several times it is not saturated fat that is bad for you. Much worse is trans fat and polyunsaturated fat with long chain fatty acids. And indeed since McDonald’s, margarine and other ‘Western’ products were introduced into the diets of urban Chinese the obesity rates have shot up.

Hainan Island

The People’s Republic of China is a vast country and in its southern reaches it does possess some tropical areas. The most famous of which is the island of Hainan Island. It is a beautiful island with white sand beaches, mangrove swamps and pristine nature. The area now has a nascent tourist industry that offers beach bungalows very similar to those found in Thailand. Hainan is also famous in China for being the center of coconut production. This is where you will find coconuts in China.

Coconut yield in China and Coconuts in Chinese Culture

According to the website  since 1985 China has been recording the number of coconuts it commercially grows. The latest statistic is for 2009. In that year China produced 109,406 coconuts. This is small fry compared 19,500,000 tonnes of coconuts produced in the Philippines (Wikipedia). Nevertheless, the coconuts in China crop  is far from negligible. Moreover, the coconut does have a place in Chinese culture. The famous poet from the Song Dynasty, Su Dong Po spent some of his time in Hainan and made several fond references to coconuts in his poems. He particularly enjoyed the taste of coconut milk, saying it was better than wine.

The local people of Hainan have been cooking with coconut oil, drinking coconut water and using coconut milk for centuries. They have also made a living from supplying the mainland with coconut shells which are used to make the traditional musical instruments the yehu and the banhu.

Future of coconuts in China

As China participates more in world trade and world affairs and as its citizens travel to more places it is clear that the coconut will become more important to the Chinese as an antidote to the inevitable damage that will be done by a change in traditional diet. Already obesity, diabetes and heart disease rates in China have risen. The one child policy has lead to spoiling kids and giving them a taste for the worst types of fat. It can only be hoped that they start to counteract this pernicious dietary trend with more coconut oil.

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