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Coconut History

Coconuts are the largest seed known

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Coconuts

© 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
The English name coconut, first mentioned in English print in 1555, comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word coco, which means "monkey face." Spanish and Portuguese explorers found a resemblance to a monkey's face in the three round indented markings or "eyes" found at the base of the coconut.

On the Nicobar Islands of the Indian Ocean, whole coconuts were used as currency for the purchace of goods until the early part of the twentieth century.

Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm, botanically known as cocos nucifera, with nucifera meaning "nut-bearing." The fruit-bearing palms are native to Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia, and are now also prolific in South America, India, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii and Florida. The light, fibrous husk allowed it to easily drift on the oceans to other areas to propagate.

In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as kalpa vriksha, meaning "tree which gives all that is necessary for living," because nearly all parts of the tree can be used in some manner or another.

The coconut fruit has many food uses for its water, milk, meat, sugar, and oil. It also functions as its own dish and cup.

The husk was burned for fuel by natives, but today a seed fibre called coir is taken from the husk and used to make brushes, mats, fishnets, and rope.

A very potent fermented toddy or drink is also made from the coconut palm's sap.

Coconut oil, a saturated fat made from dried coconut meat, is used for commercial frying and in candies and margarines, as well as in non-edible products such as soaps and cosmetics.

Although it takes up to a year for coconuts to mature, the trees bloom up to thirteen times a year. Fruit is constantly forming, thus yielding a continuous harvest year-round. An average harvest from one tree runs about 60 coconuts, with some trees yielding three times that amount.

The coconut's name is a bit of a misnomer, since it is botanically classified as a drupe and not a nut. It is the largest seed known.

More about Coconuts and Coconut Recipes:

Coconut Selection and Storage
Coconut Forms and Availability
What is coconut milk? FAQ
Coconut History
Coconut Lore and Legends
Coconut Cream Recipe
Coconut Milk Recipe
How to Toast Coconut
Coconut Recipes
Coconuts Photo © 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Cookbooks

Coconut Cookery
The Great Exotic Fruit Book
Coconut Lover's Cookbook
Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook
More Cookbooks
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