The coconut palm, Cocosnucifera, is a member of the familyArecaceae (palm family). It is the only accepted species in the genusCocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word. The term is derived from 16th century Portuguese and Spanishcocos, meaning "grinning face", from the three small holes on the coconut shell that resembles a human face.
Description Found across much of the tropics, the coconut is known for its great versatility as seen in the many domestic, commercial, and industrial uses of its different parts. Coconuts are part of the daily diet of many people. Its endosperm is known as the edible "flesh" of the coconut; when dried it is called copra. The oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking and frying; coconut oil is also widely used in soaps and cosmetics. The clear liquid coconut water within is a refreshing drink and can be processed to create alcohol. The husks and leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating. It also has cultural and religious significance in many societies that use it. Layers of the coconut fruit(1) Exocarp / Epicarp(2) Mesocarp(3) Endocarp(4) Endosperm(5) Embryo
Plant Cocosnucifera is a large palm, growing up to 30 meters (98 ft) tall, with pinnate leaves 4–6 meters (13–20 ft) long, and pinnae 60–90 cm long; old leaves break away cleanly, leaving the trunk smooth. Coconuts are generally classified into two general types: tall and dwarf. On very fertile land a tall coconut palm tree can yield up to 75 fruits per year, but more often yields less than 30 mainly due to poor cultural practices. In recent years, improvements in cultivation practices and breeding has produced coconut trees that can yield more.
Fruit Botanically the coconut fruit is a drupe, not a true nut. Like other fruits it has three layers: exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp. The exocarp and mesocarp make up the husk of the coconut. Coconuts sold in the shops of non-tropical countries often have had the exocarp (outermost layer) removed. The mesocarp is composed of fibers called coir which have many traditional and commercial uses. The shell has three germination pores (stoma) or eyes that are clearly visible on its outside surface once the husk is removed. A full-sized coconut weighs about 1.44 kilograms (3.2 lb). It takes around 6000 full-grown coconuts to produce a tonne of copra.
Seed Within the shell is a single seed. When the seed germinates, the root (radicle) of its embryo pushes out through one of the eyes of the shell. The outermost layer of the seed, the testa, adheres to the inside of the shell. In a mature coconut, a thick albuminousendosperm adheres to the inside of the testa. This endosperm or meat is the white and fleshy edible part of the coconut. Although coconut meat contains less fat than many oilseeds and seeds such as almonds, it is noted for its high amount of medium-chain saturated fat. About 90% of the fat found in coconut meat is saturated, a proportion exceeding that of foods such as lard, butter, and tallow. There has been some debate as to whether or not the saturated fat in coconuts is healthier than other forms of saturated fat (see coconut oil). Like most nut meats, coconut meat contains less sugar and more protein than popular fruits such as bananas, apples and oranges. It is relatively high in minerals such as iron, phosphorus and zinc.
The endosperm surrounds a hollow interior space, filled with air and often a liquid referred to as coconut water (distinct from coconut milk). Immature coconuts are more likely to contain coconut water and less meat. They are often sold with a small portion of the husk cut away to allow access to the coconut water. Young coconuts used for coconut water are called tender coconuts. The water of a tender coconut is liquid endosperm. It is sweet (mild) with an aerated feel when cut fresh. Depending on its size a tender contains 300 to 1,000 ml of coconut water Coconut seed interior
The meat in a green young coconut is softer and more gelatinous than that in a mature coconut—so much so that it is sometimes known as coconut jelly. When the coconut has ripened and the outer husk has turned brown, a few months later, it will fall from the palm of its own accord. At that time the endosperm has thickened and hardened, while the coconut water has become somewhat bitter.
When the coconut fruit is still green, the husk is very hard, but green coconuts only fall if they have been attacked by molds or other blights. By the time the coconut naturally falls, the husk has become brown, the coir has become drier and softer, and the coconut is less likely to cause damage when it drops, although there have been instances of coconuts falling from palms and injuring people, and claims of some fatalities. This was the subject of a paper published in 1984 that won the Ig Nobel Prize in 2001. Falling coconut deaths are often used as a comparison to shark attacks; the claim is often made that a person is more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than by a shark, yet such evidence as there is would suggest that the number of deaths due to falling coconuts is small.
Etymology One of the earliest mentions of the coconut also dates back to the One Thousand and One Nights story of Sinbad the Sailor, he is known to have bought and sold coconuts during his Fifth Voyage. Tenga was the term used in the detailed description of coconut found in Itinerario by LudovicodiVarthema published in 1510 and also in the later HortusIndicusMalabaricus. Even earlier it was called nuxindica, a name used by Marco Polo in 1280 while in Sumatra, taken from the Arabs who called it جوز هنديjawzhindī. Both names translate to "Indian nut." In the earliest description of the coconut palm known, given by Cosmos of Alexandria in his Topographia Christiana written about 545 A.D., there is a reference to the Argell Tree and its fruit, the great nut of India. A dehusked coconut shell from Ivory Coast showing the face-like markings at the base.
Historical evidence favors the European origin of the name "coconut", for there is nothing similar in any of the languages of India, where the Portuguese first found the fruit; and indeed Barbosa, Barros, and Garcia, in mentioning the Malayalam name tenga, and Canaresenarle, expressly say 'we call these fruits quoquos', 'our people have given it the name of coco', 'that which we call coco, and the Malabarstemga'."
Origin and distribution The origin of the plant is the subject of debate. Many authorities suggest an Indo-Pacific origin either around Melanesia and Malesia or the Indian Ocean, while others see the origin in northwestern South America. The oldest fossils known of the modern coconut date from the Eocene period from around 37 to 55 million years ago and were found in Australia and India. However, there are older palm fossils like some of nipa fruit that have been found in the Americas. Origin The range of the natural habitat of the coconut palm tree delineated by the red line (based on information in Werth 1933, slightly modified by NiklasJonsson)
Distribution The coconut has spread across much of the tropics, probably aided in many cases by seafaring people. Coconut fruit in the wild is light, buoyant and highly water resistant, and evolved to disperse significant distances via marine currents. It has been collected from the sea as far north as Norway. In the Hawaiian Islands, the coconut is regarded as a Polynesianintroduction, first brought to the islands by early Polynesian voyagers from their homelands in Oceania. They have been found in the Caribbean and the Atlantic coasts of Africa and South America for less than 500 years but there is evidence that their presence on the Pacific coast of South America predates Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas. They are now almost ubiquitous between 26°N and 26°S except for the interiors of Africa and South America.
Natural habitat The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity. It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall (150 cm to 250 cm annually), which makes colonizing shorelines of the tropics relatively straightforward. Coconuts also need high humidity (70–80%+) for optimum growth, which is why they are rarely seen in areas with low humidity, like the south eastern Mediterranean or Andalusia, even where temperatures are high enough (regularly above 24°C or 75.2°F). Coconut germinating on Black Sand Beach, Island of Hawaii
Coconut palms require warm conditions for successful growth, and are intolerant of cold weather. Optimum growth is with a mean annual temperature of 27 °C (81 °F), and growth is reduced below 21 °C (70 °F). Some seasonal variation is tolerated, with good growth where mean summer temperatures are between 28–37 °C (82–99 °F), and survival as long as winter temperatures are above 4–12 °C (39–54 °F); they will survive brief drops to 0 °C (32 °F). Severe frost is usually fatal, although they have been known to recover from temperatures of −4 °C (25 °F). They may grow but not fruit properly in areas where there is not sufficient warmth, like Bermuda.
The conditions required for coconut trees to grow without any care are
mean daily temperature above 12–13 °C (53.6–55.4 °F) every day of the year
no or very little overhead canopy, since even small trees require a lot of sun
The main limiting factor is that most locations which satisfy the first three requirements do not satisfy the fourth, except near the coast where the sandy soil and salt spray limit the growth of most other trees.
Harvesting In some parts of the world (Thailand and Malaysia), trained pig-tailed macaques are used to harvest coconuts. Training schools for pig-tailed macaques still exist both in southern Thailand, and in the Malaysian state of Kelantan. Competitions are held each year to find the fastest harvester. Coconut and copra output in 2005
India Traditional areas of coconut cultivation in India are the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and the islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar. Four southern states put together account for almost 92% of the total production in the country: Kerala (45.22%), Tamil Nadu (26.56%), Karnataka (10.85%), and Andhra Pradesh (8.93%). Other states like Goa, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal, and those in the northeast like Tripura and Assam account for the remaining 8.44%. Kerala, which has the largest number of coconut trees, is famous for its coconut-based products like coconut water, copra, coconut oil, coconut cake (also called coconut meal, copra cake, or copra meal), coconut toddy, coconut shell-based products, coconut wood-based products, coconut leaves, and coir pith. Coconut plucking from Kerala, India
Maldives Green coconut fruit strands on the tree are featured on each Maldivian rufiyaa banknote The coconut is the national tree of the Maldives and is considered the most important plant in the country. A coconut tree is also included in the country's national emblem or coat of arms. Coconut trees are grown on all the islands. Before modern construction methods were introduced to the Maldives, coconut leaves were used as a roofing material for many houses in the islands while coconut timber was used to build houses and boats.
The various parts of the coconut have a number of culinary uses. The nut provides oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine. The white, fleshy part of the seed—the coconut meat—is edible and used fresh or dried in cooking especially in confections and desserts like macaroons. Desiccated coconut can be used as an ingredient or to produce coconut milk which is frequently added to curry dishes and other savory viands. Coconut flour has also been developed for use in baking and to combat malnutrition. Coconut chips have been sold in tourist regions like Hawaii and the Caribbean. Coconut butter is often used to describe solidified coconut oil, but has also been adopted as a name by certain specialty products made out of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil. Culinary use Green coconuts
Coconut water Main article: Coconut water Coconut water contains sugar, fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and provides an isotonicelectrolyte balance. It is consumed as a refreshing drink throughout the humid tropics and is gaining popularity as an isotonic sports drink. Mature fruits have significantly less liquid than young immature coconuts, barring spoilage. Coconut water can be fermented to produce coconut vinegar. Coconut water is a refreshing drink
Coconut milk Coconut milk, not to be confused with coconut water, is obtained primarily by extracting juice by pressing the grated coconut's white kernel or by passing hot water or milk through grated coconut, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It has a fat content around 17%. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate from the milk. The milk can be used to produce virgin coconut oil by controlled heating and removal of the oil fraction.
Philippines In the Philippines, rice is wrapped in coconut leaves for cooking and subsequent storage; these packets are called puso. Coconut milk, known as gata, and grated coconut flakes are used in the preparation of dishes like laing, ginataan, bibingka, ubehalaya, pitsi-pitsi, palitaw, buko pie and more. Coconut jam is made by mixing muscovado sugar with coconut milk. Coconut sport fruits are also harvested. One such variety of coconut is known as macapuno. Its meat is sweetened, cut into strands and sold in glass jars as coconut strings and sometimes labeled "gelatinous South Indian dish - Idli and coconut chutney
Copra A wall made from coconut husks Extracting the fiber from the husk (Sri Lanka Copra is the dried meat of the seed and after processing produces coconut oil and coconut meal. Coconut oil, aside from being used in cooking as an ingredient and for frying, is used in soaps and cosmetics. In Vanuatu coconut palms for copra production are generally spaced 9 meters apart, allowing a tree density of 100–160 trees per hectare
Coconut trunk Coconut trunks are used for building small bridges; they are preferred for their straightness, strength and salt resistance. In Kerala (India), coconut trunks are used for house construction. Coconut timber comes from the trunk, and is increasingly being used as an ecologically sound substitute for endangered hardwoods. It has applications in furniture and specialized construction, as notably demonstrated in Manila's Coconut Palace. Coconut Palace, Manila, Philippines
Medicinal uses Coconuts may help benign prostatic hyperplasia. In rats, virgin coconut oil reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol in serum and tissues. The hexane fraction of coconut peel may contain novel anticancer compounds. Young coconut juice has estrogen-like characteristics. Inside a coconut is a cavity filled with coconut water, which is sterile until opened. It mixes easily with blood, and was used during World War II in emergency transfusions. It can also serve as an emergency short-term intravenous hydration fluid. This is possible because the coconut water has a high level of sugar and other salts that makes it possible to be used in the bloodstream, much like the modern lactated ringer solution or a dextrose/water solution as an IV. Coconut is also commonly used as a traditional remedy in Pakistan to treat bites from rats. In
Hawaiians hollowed the trunk to form drums, containers, or small canoes. The "branches" (leaf petioles) are strong and flexible enough to make a switch. The use of coconut branches in corporal punishment was revived in the Gilbertese community on Choiseul in the Solomon Islands in 2005.
Other uses The leftover fiber from coconut oil and coconut milk production—coconut meal—is used as livestock feed. The dried calyx of the coconut is used as fuel in wood fired stoves. Coconut water is traditionally used as a growth supplement in plant tissue culture/micropropagation. The smell of coconuts comes from the 6-pentyloxan-2-one molecule, known as delta-decalactone in the food and fragrance industry Making a rug from coconut fiber
Topical allergies Coconut-derived products can cause contact dermatitis. They can be present in cosmetics including some hair shampoos, moisturizers, soaps, cleansers and hand washing liquids. Coconut-derived products known to cause contact dermatitis include: coconut diethanolamide, cocamidesulphate, cocamide DEA, CDEA, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauroyl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium LauroylSarcosinate, Sodium CocoylSarcosinate, Potassium Coco HydrolysedCollagan, TEA TriethanolaminLaureth Sulfate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Also watch TEA compounds (Triethanolamine) Laureth Sulfate, Lauryl or CocoylSarcosime, Disodium OleamideSulfocuccina, LaurethSulfasuccinate & Disodium DioctylSulfosuccinate.