Coconuts - one of the most useful trees in the world.

Coconuts are the seeds of the coconut palm. The round (adult) coconuts are hard, brown and hairy. Inside the coconut is deliciously sweet flesh and coconut water that you can consume.

History

The coconut tree or Cocos nucifera is a member of the palm tree family, Arecaceae. ‘Coconut’ can refer to the whole palm, the seed or the fruit. Botanically speaking, the coconut is a drupe, not a nut, which is why we have filed it under (dried) fruits, and not under nuts elsewhere in the Agiboo Commodity Knowledge Center.

The term coconut (or the archaic, much less used cocoanut, which brings to mind an entirely different commodity) can refer to the whole coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which botanically is a drupe, not a nut. The name comes from the old Portuguese and Spanish word coco, meaning head or skull, after the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features. Coconuts are ubiquitous in coastal tropical regions and are a cultural icon of the tropics. It is one of the most useful trees in the world and is often referred to as the tree of life, as it provides food, fuel, cosmetics, folk medicine and building materials, among many other uses.

The inner flesh of the mature seed, as well as the coconut milk extracted from it, form a regular part of the diets of many people in the tropics and subtropics. Coconuts are distinct from other fruits because their endosperm contains a large quantity of clear liquid, called coconut water or coconut juice. Mature, ripe coconuts can be used as edible seeds, or processed for oil and plant milk from the flesh, charcoal from the hard shell, and coir from the fibrous husk. Dried coconut flesh is called copra, and the oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking – frying in particular – as well as in soaps and cosmetics.

The hard shells, fibrous husks and long pinnate leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decoration. The coconut has cultural and religious significance in certain societies, particularly in India, where it is used in Hindu rituals. It forms the basis of wedding and worship rituals in Hinduism, a coconut religion in Vietnam, and features in the origin myths of several societies.

Production

Coconut trees are a staple of tropical paradise imagery, to be found anywhere from Asia and South America to the islands in the pacific. The trees grow up to 30 m (98 ft) tall and can yield up to 75 fruits per year, though fewer than 30 is more typical. Plants are intolerant of cold weather and prefer copious precipitation, as well as full sunlight. Many insect pests and diseases affect the species and are a nuisance for commercial production. Harvesting the coconut is done by hand or with trained monkeys. They can also fall off spontaneously.

About 74 percent of the world’s supply of coconuts derives from Indonesia, the Philippines, and India combined.

Many people are attracted to eating fresh coconut, but cracking these nuts seems like a hell of a job. It takes quite some experience and effort to find the best way to do so. Many ways have been devised to crack the nuts. On plantations, the nuts are opened by “husking.” On a very sharp knife which is set into the ground, the nuts are cracked, and the kernels are taken out. We call these kernels coconuts (the brown ones). Immediately after husking, the kernels are chopped open. This happens because the nuts would otherwise rot, they contain a lot of water, which in the bright sun can cause the nut to crack. The coconut water that is released when the kernel is broken open is collected.

Applications

The coconut is not a nut, but a drupe of the coconut palm. The fruit consists of four parts: the coconut fiber, the shell, the fibrous pulp and the coconut water. The pulp contains 40 percent fat, of which over 30 percent is saturated. You can also buy coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut fat or coconut flour. Coconut milk is grated coconut pulp mixed with water. Coconut fat is also known as coconut oil. Coconut oil in the country of origin is liquid at room temperature, but during transit it usually becomes solid and is then called coconut fat.

Coconuts are very healthy. Fresh coconut meat is high in fiber and saturated fats. These are the short and medium chain fatty acids such as caprylic acid and lauric acid. These MTC fatty acids, according to research, can reduce hunger pangs and increase energy burning. The fiber in coconuts has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels and activity and has an anti-inflammatory effect. There is cautious evidence, that coconut may possibly protect against Alzheimer’s. Fresh coconut meat is also very healthy for the intestines. In addition, it also contains very many antioxidants.

Coconut water has refreshing taste. The flesh has a mild, nutty and sweet taste. The milk has a full, creamy flavor.Coconut water can be drunk as is or incorporated into a smoothie.

The pulp can be used as is, like a snack, or shaved into homemade granola. The milk is used in for instance Asian curry or pumpkin soup, or for cooking brown rice.

Price Factors

The global supply and demand for coconuts and coconut-based products have increased tremendously over the past decades; hence, the industry has become one of the significant contributors to the economies of producer countries. However, similar to the other agricultural commodities, coconut has also been confronted by fluctuation in prices. Among them, anomalies in weather parameters, substitution factors, import factors, and different government policies may significantly contribute to the system of price determination.

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