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Other Names

Cocos nucifera

French: noix de coco



From a word of Italian origin (1525) "cocho," meaning bogey-man, because of the nut's "face." Until the 18th century it was called "coco" in English, eventually being transformed into "coconut" which remains the usual term today.

The coconut is not a tree at all, as one would think, but, like all palms, a large modified herb whose trunk, called a "stipe", is topped by a long head of "hair": a bouquet of palms whose leaves can reach 6 m in length. It flowers throughout the year and produces a drupe, a green fruit containing a nut which grows in bunches of 5 or 6 on the branch axils.

First time visitors in West Indies are often surprised to discover that coconuts on trees are in fact green and not brown. This is the outer husk which has to be stripped off to reveal the actual nut.

The coconut palm is unquestionably the tourist symbol for every "sun" destination, since it grows only near beaches. Those who see coconut palms for the first time are surprised to see that the nuts are hairy and green, and not brown as they appear in our supermarkets. A thick fibrous covering, 5 to 15 cm thick, surrounds the drupe called the pericarp. Under the covering is found a thin, brown, and very hard shell, which surrounds the albumen - a white milky liquid which is called coconut water and which will change into flesh as the fruit matures. Strictly speaking, this is the nut or copra. It is a daily show in the West Indies to watch vendors along the roadside remove the green nut from its fibrous covering and decapitate it with a machete to drink its slightly sweet and thirst-quenching water.

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Photo : ID 33033786 / Sergii Telesh / MSCOMM

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