You've likely seen those pointy, plastic-wrapped fresh young coconuts in your natural foods market ... but have you been too intimidated to try one? Here's your step-by-step guide to opening a young fresh coconut and extracting the supernutritious, clear coconut water (called agua de pipa in Latin America -- and not to be confused with thick, white coconut milk), as well as the extremely tender fresh coconut meat.
1. Discard the plastic wrap. Get a STURDY cutting board (or put a damp towel beneath your cutting board so it won't slip) and the biggest, heaviest knife you have -- a cleaver or heavy chef's knife.
2. Turn the coconut on its side and hack near the pointed end until you create a small opening. (Stand back and leave your fingers out of it! You don't have to hit the exact same point every time; eventually you'll get through the shell.) Turn upright and, if necessary, use a sturdy can opener to pry the opening wide enough so you can pour out the water. Pour into a large measuring cup. (See photo, below right.) One coconut will yield 1 to 1.5 cups of coconut water. This highly nutritious, clear liquid is full of natural electrolytes and potassium.
3. Once all the water is drained, hack the coconut (either in the location you started near the pointed end or, if easier, right in the center; see photo below) until broken enough to pry in half. You may have to lodge the knife in the coconut and bang it on the cutting board -- kind of like splitting wood.
4. Pry open the coconut shell to reveal the creamy white flesh inside (photo below, right).
5. Use a sturdy spoon to scrape out the coconut meat. You'll likely get about 1 cup. Scrape off any residual wood that clings to the meat. Compost the shell.