Other Names: Coco, Lubi, Narial, Nariyal, Kokos, Kelapa, Pol, Maprao
The Coconut is not a true nut. Coconut tree is a large palm, growing to 30 m tall, with pinnate leaves 4 – 6 m long, pinnae 60-90 cm long; old leaves break away cleanly leaving the trunk smooth.
The coconut has hundreds of uses. The white, fleshy part of the seed is edible and used fresh or dried in cooking.The cavity is filled with 'coconut water' containing sugars, fibre, proteins, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, which provide excellent isotonic electrolyte balance, and an exceptional nutritional food source, which is why it is used as a refreshing drink throughout the humid tropics. It is also used in the making of the gelatinous dessert nata de coco. Mature fruits have significantly less liquid than young immature coconuts. Coconut water is sterile until the coconut is opened (unless the coconut is spoiled).Sport fruits are also harvested, primarily in the Philippines, where they are known as macapuno.Coconut milk (which is approximately 17% fat) is made by processing grated coconut with hot water or hot milk which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds from the fibre, and should not be confused with the juice found naturally in young coconuts, called coconut water or coconut juice.Coconut cream is what rises to the top when coconut milk is refrigerated and left to set.The leftover fibre from coconut milk production is used as livestock feed.The sap derived from incising the flower clusters of the coconut is fermented to produce palm wine, also known as 'toddy' or, in the Philippines, tuba. The sap can also be reduced by boiling to create a sweet syrup or candy.
Coconut oil contains fatty acids which are antimicrobial and a compound called sucrose cocoate, which is moisturising. The oil is used in skin soothing treatments to ease inflammation such as eczema and psoriasis. Sucrose cocoate is also added to some pharmaceutical preparations because it can help the body to absorb certain drugs.
It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall (750 to 2,000 mm annually), which makes colonising 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 (e.g. the Mediterranean), even where temperatures are high enough (regularly above 24°C). They are very hard to establish and grow in dry climates without frequent irrigation.
The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity.