coconut palm, cultivated throughout the tropics
worldwide, grows to a height of nearly 30 m (100
ft). All parts of the coconut palm can be used.
Besides the fruit itself, the terminal bud, called
the palm cabbage, and young stems are edible and
in some areas are considered a delicacy. The sap
can be made into beverages, while dried coconut
husk fibers and leaves can be transformed into a
variety of household items.
Morris/Oxford Scientific Films
Coconut, common name for the fruit of a tree of the palm
family, widely distributed in tropical regions. The tree,
called coconut palm, has a cylindrical trunk about 45 cm
(about 18 in) in diameter and can grow up to 30 m (100 ft)
high, with many rings marking the places of former leaves.
At the summit it bears a crown of about 20 pinnate leaves
that generally curve downward, each of which is about 3
to 4.5 m (about 10 to 15 ft) long. The fruit grow in clusters
of 10 to 20 or more nuts; and 10 or 12 of these clusters,
in different stages, may be seen at once on a tree.
mature coconut, about 30 cm (about 12 in) long, is oval
shaped and has a thick, fibrous outer husk and a hard inner
shell. The lining, or kernel, of the inner shell is a white,
oily meat that is dried to produce the commercially valuable
copra. Copra yields an oil used in the manufacture of soaps
and candles. Within the kernel is a sweet-tasting, milky
meat of coconuts, either raw or prepared, is an important
food in the Tropics. The terminal bud, known as palm cabbage,
is considered a delicacy, and trees are often cut down for
the sake of it; the central part of the young stem is also
succulent and edible. The sap, or toddy, like that of some
other palms, is a favorite beverage in tropical countries,
either in the natural state or after fermentation, which
takes place in a few hours. Palm wine, or arrack, also a
spirituous liquor, is obtained by distillation of fermented
sap. The tree root possesses narcotic properties and is
dried leaves of the coconut palm are used for thatch and,
by plaiting the leaflets, mats, screens, and baskets are
made. Coir, the fiber of the nut's husk, is used to make
classification: The coconut palm belongs to the family
Arecaceae (formerly Palmae). It is classified as Cocos nucifera.
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Gardening: Ye Olde Gothick Herball
for Americans, the coconut is an exotic treat, it figures
heavily in the folklore of many peoples in the Pacific and
Melanesians believed that a breaker of taboos would be driven
to madness and would kill himself either by starvation or
by flinging himself from a coconut palm.
Maori believed that the coconut sprung from the head of
the eel-god Tuna. Tuna was a christ-like figure who had
been sacrificed to redeem mankind, and to eat coconut was
to partake of divine flesh. Unripe nuts were thought to
represent heaven and the underworld.
In the New Hebrides, the Malekula funeral rites include
eating coconut so that the mourners may communicate with
sometimes include coconuts as offerings on the anniversary
of a death, as a symbol of rebirth.
palms were also thought shelter souls; the Dyaks of Borneo
specifically transferred the souls of their newborns to
coconut shells to protect them for the first year of life,
and on Fiji a coconut palm is planted at a baby's birth
in the belief that the fate of the child is tied to the
tree. The Baujaus of the Philippines use coconut shells
to bury the afterbirth. The eastern African tribe Wanika
thought that cutting down a coconut palm to be equivalent
to murdering a parent.
believed that a coconut palm grew at the entrance to Pulotu,
the World of Spirits. This tree was called the Tree of Leosia
of the Watcher. If a spirit struck against it, he had to
return to his body. Relatives would rejoice at this return
from death, saying, 'He has come back from the Tree of the
Lankans have two different myths regarding the origin of
the coconut. The first says that it sprung from the head
of where a court astrologer was buried. The other claims
that the coconut originated from where the head of a horrible
monster had been buried.
Chinese called the coconut Ye-tsu or Yüe-wang-t'ou, meaning
the head of the Prince of Yüe. Legend has it that Prince
Lin-yi was fighting with the Prince of Yue, so he sent an
assassin. The Prince of Yüe was killed while he was intoxicated
by having his head cut off. The head was hung on a tree,
and was changed into a coconut with two eyes in its shell.
resemblance of a coconut to a human head meant it was often
a sacrificial substitute in the magical rites of many Pacific
Olde Gothick Herbal