Is Coconut a Fruit?

What is the coconut? Is coconut a fruit or a nut? Is coconut a seed?

The botanical classification:

The coconut is a fibrous one seeded drupe. Some scientists refer to the coconut as a water dispersal fruit and seed.

What is a drupe?

Drupe definition: A drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering. All drupes have three layers: the outer layer, which is called the exocarp, the middle fleshy layer (the mesocarp) and the hard layer that surrounds the seed (the endocarp). The coconuts we buy in the stores have their exocarps removed. (pic of both below)

List of other drupe fruit:

Olives, mango, date, pistachio, almonds, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, and plum.

With Exocarp
Exocarp layer removed

Why is the Coconut Not a Nut?

The definition of nut - A one seeded fruit. Hence the “nut” in the word coconut. However, a coconut is not a true nut. A true nut does not open at maturity to release its seeds.

A Few Interesting Facts About Coconuts

  • Every part of the coconut tree is used, even the blossoms. The coconut palm tree is often referred to as the “tree of life”. From it many things are derived such as: Coconut water, coconut milk, cream, butter, coconut sugar, cosmetics, flour, alcoholic beverage (palm wine & Coconut vodka), vinegar and a beautiful dark coconut sauce. The shell of the coconut is often used as decoration, to cook food in or as utensils. The husks of the coconut are used for many things, watch the video below. The leaves are used for shelter and are food for elephants. The shells, husks and leaves are often used to make fires. The buds of the palm are edible and referred to as “palm cabbage”. The roots are used as medicine, mouth wash and dye.
  • In world war 2, coconut water was used as a substitute for IV solutions. 
  • The spelling of the word “coconut” was derived from the term coco, which means “head”, “skull” or “grinning face” in Spanish and Portuguese. The top of the coconut shell has three indentations that look a lot like facial features. The coconut was originally called a coco. (picture above)
  • On good soil the coconut will produce 75 fruit per year. They only start producing fruit after 6 to 10 years! And take up to 20 years to reach their full production potential.
  • Harvesting of coconuts in Thailand and Malaysia are often done by training monkeys to pick coconuts. This has been done for over 400 years.
  • When a coconut is not harvested and drops to the ground, it will lay there until it matures. Once this happens a green shoot will appear through the shell of the coconut. The plant feeds itself with the water and meat inside the coconut. Roots will start to appear and will eventually anchor the plant in the soil. Once this happens a brand new coconut tree is born.

Is Coconut Safe for People who Have Nut Allergies?

A few years back the FDA confused everyone by listing coconut as something to avoid if you have tree nut allergies. In 2006 they also had coconut on the list of “tree nuts”. This caused a lot of confusion. You can be allergic to coconut, but it has no relation to tree nut allergies.



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