When we think of palm trees, we often imagine the quintessential image of tropical paradise, but these sturdy plants are much more significant than you might think. There are over 2,500 species of palm trees. Coconuts are a distinct product of these tall beauties but did you know that dates, betel nuts, and acai fruit all come from palms trees too? Amazing, right?
And while we now think we’ve discovered this remarkable new health fad, other countries believe that we must be down-right adorable because they’ve known this for centuries. So, since we’re a little late in the game we’ll help bring you up-to-speed on what makes a good coconut, where they come from, and how many different varieties there are.
First, let’s clarify one thing. Although there are different types of coconuts, there is only one species of coconut plant, which is the coconut palm. It’s the only type of palm tree that produces coconuts. There are dozens of different varieties, but they are divided into two main types: tall and dwarf.
Talls are the most common type of coconut palm, and they cross-pollinate, which means they share genetic material among trees. And as you can imagine, this leads to a lot of variations in the characteristics of the fruit. There are two main types of tall coconuts; nju kafa, which grow in the wild, and the niu vai, which are domesticated. Most often these two types are named according to where they are grown, like the West African Tall.
The next type of coconut is the dwarf kind. Yep, these are small and they mostly self-pollinate, which means fewer varieties. These are the most popular to grow in home gardens and parks. And, like tall palm trees, dwarfs are usually named for their country of origin but here’s the kicker – the color of the young fruit is included in the name. For example Malayan Yellow or the Cameroon Red.
The variety of the coconut is called Cocos Nucifera – a name which originates from the Portuguese in the 16th century.
• Coco = Portuguese for “grimace” – referring to the three holes on the bottom of the shell creating a face-like appearance
• Nucifera = Latin for nut-bearing
Depending on what your end goal is for what you want out of the coconut, depends on the type and the stage in which you harvest it. Nam Hom is the type of coconut used to produce coconut water, and it’s plucked at a young stage of its growth. This particular variety is popular because of its aromatic flavor of coconut water in it. In fact, the name itself translates into “fragrant water.” If you want coconut cream or milk, the Krati coconut is the way to go. This type of coconut must be harvested at a mature state when the coconut meat has thickened but still has water inside of it.
Wondering where they all come from? The top five countries coconut producing countries include Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil and Sri Lanka. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they produce the highest quality. The Philippines exports more than $1 billion worth of coconuts to the US alone.
At Coconut Cloud, we work with suppliers who pull coconuts from the central regions of Ratchaburi, Smauth Songkram, as well as the southern regions of Prachuab Khiri Khan, Chump on, Nikon Si Hummerite and Putting. Why these areas? It’s important to us to pull coconuts from reliable sources that don’t cross contaminate. You’ve heard the saying, “Understanding where your food comes from.” Knowing the origin of the product your buying allows you to have the peace-of-mind of knowing you are getting a high-quality product that has been harvested in local and more sustainable conditions.
Even though coconut products are booming in popularity, some countries are not spreading the love to their farmers. In the Philippines, one of the world’s leading coconut producers, an estimated 60 percent of small-scale coconut farmers lives in poverty. Thus far, this hasn’t become a problem for countries like Thailand which have smaller farms and more stable sustainability.
So much info, and so little time! No wonder people are going nuts over coconuts.