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article imageThe coconut palm: A tree of life

By Kelly Jadon     Dec 20, 2013 in Food
The coconut palm has existed since man can remember. Its roots dig into the sand, planting itself in soft terrain, yet able to withstand the worst of storms. Bending with the winds and surf, a coconut palm may live 100 years.
Doctors in 1954 used fresh coconut water as an IV drip in clinical trials successfully. Seventeen of the 157 patients were in St. Louis, within the surgical wards of the Barnes Hospital. The coconuts used there were produced in Miami, Florida.
The coconut palm is the most widely grown and important palm in the world. Approximately 80 countries plant the tree. In North America, it is only grown in Florida's tropical zone: from Stuart in Martin County, south to the Keys on the Atlantic and from Pinellas County’s coast southward along the Gulf of Mexico.
The word “coconut” means “head” or “face,” first coming as quoquos in the Canarese (India) language. The base of the fruit has three holes, giving it the appearance of a coco (Spanish/Portuguese) or grinning face. Its scientific classification is Cocos nucifera.
The coconut is not a true nut. It is instead a drupe. A drupe is a fruit with an outer flesh and a pit in the center. Another type of drupe is the date palm.
The origin of the palm is debatable, but researchers do know that the American coconut predates European contact. Ancient palm fossils have been located in the Americas, Australia and India.
Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. Genesis 1:11
The outside of the coconut is called the exocarp which is part of the “husk.” Within that is a hard shell known as the mesocarp — another part of the “husk.” The final interior is the meat of the fruit, known as the endocarp from which copra is produced. The interior contains a potable water.
For hundreds of years, the coconut has sustained traditional tropical human populations. In the Malay tongue, the tree is known as pokok seribu guna or “the tree of a thousand uses.” Native cultures utilize every part of the coconut, producing copra or dried meat. Coconut oil is extracted from the copra by grating and then boiling the copra. The leftover coconut still contains some protein and large quantities of dietary fiber, leaving it inedible for human consumption. It is instead fed to animals which chew the cud, having a four-compartment stomach — cattle, goats, sheep.
The coconut’s water contains sugar, dietary fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Young coconuts provide the most amount of liquid. The water can be fermented to create a vinegar.
Coconut milk is extracted from grated coconut when pressed. This removes the oil. Extra virgin coconut oil is extracted in this manner.
Coconuts in Florida are eaten by local residents. They drink the water, scoop out the meat and even make ice cream with it. Try this popsicle recipe.
Around the world the coconut is an ingredient from curry to macaroons and is the nutritional base of many meals.
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