Coconut is a tasty tropical fruit of the palm family, and that’s why we can’t get enough of it. There’s no shortage of uses for it! Pretty much anywhere you look, you’ll see some kind of product made from or with coconuts. This article will give you an overview of this versatile, tasty tropical fruit.
What is coconut?
Coconut is a large, hard-shelled seed from the drupaceous family, which includes dates, figs, and other tropical fruits. The flesh of the coconut is white and juicy, and the exterior is covered with a thick, fibrous husk.
Coconut fruit grows primarily in tropical regions such as India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, etc. It is usually called a drupe because it is a one-seeded plant. Other drupes include peaches, olives, and so on.
They are used for making dishes such as Creamy chicken coconut sauce and Coconut Fried Rice, and you can eat them raw, dried, or processed. As you can see, the coconut palm and fruit are versatile. The parts can serve various purposes, which is why it is referred to as the “tree of life.”
Is coconut fruit or a nut?
Coconut is a sweet and crunchy tropical fruit. As a versatile fruit, it is used for recipes like coconut rice, coconut cakes, and more. It is also processed into products like coconut milk, oil, cream, and flakes.
It is one of the most popular fruits around, and you can find it in a variety of foods and skin care products. It is also pretty well known for its many health benefits.
Coconut is a large nut-like fruit that grows on the coconut palm. It has a hard, brown outer shell that encases a white fleshy meat and a clear liquid.
The end of the fruit has three hairy nubs called “eyes.” Coconut can be eaten fresh or dried, and the flesh and milk can be used to produce oils, soaps, and cosmetics.
- Coconut husk:
The fruit is usually enclosed in a thick fibrous husk surrounding it. The husk is brown in a matured coconut and green in a young coconut. The husk cushions the coconut shell and prevents it from breaking. It can be used to make rope, mats, or other items. It is also often used as a natural fertilizer in gardens and potted plants.
- Coconut shell:
Inside the husk is a hard shell covering the coconut meat. The shell is a hard breakable enclosure that you need to crack open before you can get to the edible part. It can be used to make crafts or jewelry.
- Coconut eyes:
The eyes of a coconut are the three small indentations at the top of the fruit. These eyes are the points where the coconuts start to form in the husk. One of the three eyes is also functional for draining the water inside the coconut before breaking it open.
- Coconut meat:
Coconut meat is the white flesh found inside a coconut. It is the edible part of coconut with a sweet and crunchy taste. It can be processed into coconut milk, oil, flakes, etc. It is also often used in desserts and other recipes.
- Coconut water:
This is a clear liquid in the coconut that people take as a beverage. The drink is full of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals beneficial to the body. It is also a great substitute for sugary drinks.
Stages of maturity
Coconuts can be found in three main stages of maturity: young green coconuts, medium white coconuts, and mature brown coconuts.
The coconut fruit takes about a year to develop and passes through these three phases of development. Interestingly, they are edible at all stages of development.
The young green coconuts are the most immature. They become edible at 6 months. It has a green husk with a cylindrical shape. At this stage, there is more water in the coconut than meat. The coconut meat isn’t mature; it’s primarily soft and gelatinous with a strong coconut flavor.
The coconut provides the sweetest and most refreshing coconut water at this stage. It is often used to make coconut water drinks and can be blended into smoothies. The young green coconut is also ideal for making coconut milk and coconut cream.
The medium white coconut is semi-mature and contains a good amount of coconut meat and a reduced amount of coconut water. The white meat is thicker but still soft and moist. The coconut at this stage can be eaten raw or grated and used in recipes like cookies, cakes, and other desserts because of its sweet and milky taste.
It can also be blended into smoothies or used to make coconut milk and coconut cream.
The mature coconut is fully ripe at 12 months. It has a brown outer covering and has the most coconut meat and the least coconut water. This is the one you usually see at most grocery stores.
They have thick shells that need to be cracked. You are not alone if you are frustrated by the thick, hard coconut shell. I have an article on how to open coconuts here.
How to choose fresh mature coconuts
Have you ever bought a tasteless coconut? We know how annoying that can be. See below for how to choose a fresh mature coconut in good condition.
- Examine the color: A fresh coconut should also have a brown outer covering. Don’t buy the one with a grey shell; that is likely old.
- Compare the weight: If you have to choose between two coconuts, pick the heavier one. When a coconut is heavy for its size, it indicates that it contains fresh, mature coconut meat and more water.
- Shake the coconut: When you shake it, you should hear the sloshing sound of coconut water inside. The water inside keeps it fresh, so it is a good sign.
- Examine the coconut eyes: They should be clear. It should have no signs of mold or cracks. If you see any of these signs, the coconut is getting bad.
- Check cracks and wet areas: Your coconut should not have any cracks or damp areas. If you see any wet parts, it may indicate leaks.
Even though the coconut is a hidden fruit, if you follow these steps, you will likely find a fresh one.
Uses of coconut
The uses of coconut are vast, both for food and drinks as well as for other purposes. For example, it can be eaten raw or cooked and used to make coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, and even coconut butter.
It can be used in baking, making desserts, and savory dishes. It is also used in cosmetics and health products and is a popular ingredient in many tropical recipes.
The coconut plant has several uses beyond food, medicine, and beauty products. It also provides important sources of income for people overseas who rely on revenue from selling pulp from opened coconuts or using green coconuts to create a wide variety of manufactured goods.
How to store coconut
Coconuts should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and moisture. This will help to keep the coconuts fresh and prevent rot and mold.
Coconut products for making dishes
There are many ways to prepare coconut in the kitchen, and it works well in sweet and savory dishes. It’s an excellent choice for people on low-carb, paleo, gluten-free, or nut-free diets. Some coconut by-products include:
- Coconut Aminos
- Coconut Cream
- Coconut Milk
- Coconut Water
- Coconut Whipping Cream
- Condensed coconut milk
- Desiccated coconut
- Coconut oil
- Toasted coconut flakes
- Coconut Flour
How long does a coconut last
A mature unbroken coconut can last up to four months at room temperature if kept in a cool, dry place. You can store young coconuts in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Coconuts are a renewable resource, meaning that they can be harvested repeatedly without depleting the source. Additionally, coconut trees help reduce air pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. Furthermore, the husks and shells can be used as fuel to produce energy.
Is it ok to eat raw coconut?
Yes, it is safe and even beneficial to eat raw coconut. The flesh, juice, and milk of coconut are all considered edible. However, it has high fat, so you should eat it in moderation.
What are the benefits of eating coconut?
Coconuts are packed with nutrients and offer many health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and protect against free radical damage. They are also a good source of healthy fats, which can help balance hormones, boost energy levels, and improve digestion. Additionally, they are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can help lower cholesterol and improve overall health.
Coconut Recipes you will love:
- Creamy chicken coconut sauce
- Coconut Fried Rice
- Toasted Coconut Flakes
- Coconut curry Fish
- West African coconut rice
- Mango coconut ice cream
Let’s connect on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. I love keeping in touch with you; nothing brings me more joy than seeing pictures of your creations. Tag me @cheflolaskitchen on Instagram and Facebook.