தேங்காய் பூ, thEngAi poo is the delicious spongy/crispy, edible cotyledon of the coconut that develops at the time of germination.
Once the fruit is mature, the seed is ready to germinate. Often, at the time when coconuts are being readied into copra to extract coconut oil, some of the coconuts might have started germinating; at that time people extract and enjoy the newly “fattened” cotyledon that fills the seed. [See 5:12 forward in the video of copra making.]
During the past couple of years, these seedlings have been sold in Chennai in carts that dot various neighbourhoods. Recently one cart-load came to Besant Nagar, and I took some pictures.
The coconut seedling emerges from one of three depressions on the coconut fruit. This year, these seedlings are being sold commonly. They usually come from southern parts (e.g., Theni), according to the vendor.
Vendor pulling the remaining fruit fibre off the germinating coconut seed.
Seedling ready to be “killed”, as he put it. A practice normally frowned upon, “கஷ்டமா தான் இருக்கு” but what to do, it has to be done.
The seedling severed from its cotyledon. Some do manage to survive if planted.
Top left: Seed cut open, showing the large single yellowish spongy cotyledon filling the space. Bottom right: other portion of the fruit, showing the remnant “meat” and the hole made by the emerged seedling.
Cotyledon with a portion removed to show its spongy crispy texture inside.
Chopped up cotyledon–delicious, lightly coconutty, crispy texture.
The “upper” (seedling end) of the cotyledon removed from the seed and fruit to show the part where it was severed from the seedling. The remaining “meat” tastes like copra.