When I first arrived on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, I remarked to my then wife about how, ever since leaving PNG, I had pined for fresh kulau. Fortunately there are lots of coconuts in the Cocos Islands, which were named after the native coconut palms.
The Clunies-Ross family, after bulldozing almost everything else into the sea, had planted as many coconuts trees as the place would bear. Two ironwood trees had survived and started seeding, encouraging us to try propagate them further. Then, when the Australian Government bought out Clunies-Ross, the coconut trees went feral. By 1990, the island's vegetation consisted mainly of fallen coconuts, sprouting coconuts, mature coconuts and real old trees that dropped about a dozen nuts every month.
You could estimate fairly accurately how old a tree was by its height. Each successive hurricane levelled some trees and their replacements could never catch up in height. There were survivors that went back to the 1903 hurricane that were probably the best part of a hundred feet tall.
One of the other things these are famous for are crabs in all sorts of colours and sizes. Land crabs, coconut crabs, hermit crabs, sand crabs, mud crabs. In 1838, Charles Darwin had called in. The coconut crabs were so plentiful that you had to watch where you put your feet or you could get a nasty nip. Their flesh was so oily that when the sailors cooked them, the oil would be scooped off the surface of the kettle and used as a lubricant.
We didn't know it at the time that all the coconut crabs on the main islands had been killed and eaten by the locals. What we thought were crabs eating the fallen coconuts turned out to be rats.
Anyhow, enough background. We were sitting down to lunch when the inevitable thump occurred in the yard. "Quick!" said my wife, “Go and get it before the crabs steal it."
So away I dashed in my fearless hunter/gatherer role and grabbed the freshly fallen nut, shooing away scores of blameless land crabs. Now the hard part. After half an hour and a gallon of sweat, I managed to get the husk off using an iron stake someone had left in the ground. Breaking open the nut, I proudly produced the meat but of course this wasn't a PNG kulau. This was a Cocos Islands nut.
The results of my labours, upon being tasted, produced a rather indifferent, ‘Well, it’s OK, but nothing to write home about’. I returned to work in a lather of sweat and pondering my wife’s lingering disbelief about the taste of fresh coconut.