Coconut Neera—A Vital Health Beverage from Coconut Palms: Harvesting, Processing and Quality Analysis
Molecular Biology Division, SCMS Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology Research and Development (SIBBR&D), Management House, South Kalamassery, Cochin 682033, Kerala, India
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Beverages 2019, 5(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/beverages5010022
Received: 12 January 2019 / Revised: 29 January 2019 / Accepted: 30 January 2019 / Published: 2 March 2019
Nature has made nutritive products in such a way that it cannot be manufactured in laboratories or in mills. Coconut Neera is the natural sap of the mature coconut palms rich with all essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins for human health. Harvesting of Neera from the spadix of the palms without disturbing the physiology of the tree has a lot of potential at the industrial scale. However, the development of alcohol in the extracted sap during tapping by auto-fermentation has given a misnomer for Neera as “sweet toddy”. Hence, the commercial popularity of Neera as a health drink has diminished at a global level. Though several traditional techniques like the usage of calcium hydroxide (lime) and the application of the chiller device during harvesting Neera from spadix have been practiced for collecting non-fermented Neera, none of the techniques were found acceptable at the commercial level. The results of the present study demonstrate the harvesting and processing procedure standardized for the collection and storage of non-fermented Neera from palms by repeated field trials. The cumulative effect of the anti-fermentation solution (AFS) with the presence of the two preservatives—citric acid (5 mM) and potassium metabisulphite (2 mM)—by preventing fermentation from the level of harvesting to processing was confirmed. The zero content of alcohol in raw Neera indicates the AFS action. The proximate composition of primary constituents and the content of minerals, amino acids and vitamins present in Neera highlights its nutrient value as a health beverage. The higher content of minerals—sodium and potassium (15.2 mg and 100 mg), the elevated level of amino acids-cysteine (14 mg), tyrosine (7.11 mg), arginine (7 mg) and the presence of vitamin C (65 mg) and vitamin A as retinol (4.88 IU)—indicates the therapeutic importance of coconut Neera. The data of oral toxicity and the glycemic index further support the vital quality.