Not very long ago, coconuts were being associated with a multitude of health issues like clogged arteries, heart diseases, and increased cholesterol levels, to name a few. This greatly affected its reputation and stirred up a lot of confusion among true coconut-lovers.
However, after massive amounts of research on this incredible fruit, it made a massive comeback as one of the best ‘miracle’ foods with endless health benefits. And, for all the right reasons, too. They slowly earned their way to becoming an extremely versatile and a highly-demanded food commodity.
Nowadays, you won’t just find coconuts being used in different cuisines from all around the world, but they have also stirred up great interest in the world of beauty and skincare, as well. From magical beauty potions to delicious culinary creations, they are everywhere.
Coconuts are packed with all the essential vitamins and minerals that not only boost your physical health but also pave the way towards flawless and healthy-looking skin and hair.
Take a look at the different types of coconuts, their ultimate health benefits and their wonderful evolution throughout history all the way to the current modern times.
Table of Contents
The coconut tree belongs to the palm tree family called the “Arecaceae” and the term “coconut” refers to the entire coconut palm including the fruit and the seed. The word coconut has stemmed from a Spanish and Portuguese word ‘coco’ which translates to “head” or “skull” in the English language. This derivation resulted from the fact that the coconut shell consists of three indentations that basically resemble human facial features.
One of the earliest mentions of coconuts was in the “One Thousand and One Nights” story of Sindbad the Sailor according to which he brought some coconuts and sold them off during his fifth voyage. There are also records of some literary evidence from the chronicles of Sri Lanka which show that coconuts were present even before the 1st Century BCE mainly in regions of South Asia.
According to the research conducted by a plant evolutionary biologist called Kenneth M. Olsen, there are two clearly differentiated origins of cultivation the coconut, the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera. This finding suggests that coconut was cultivated and bought from two locations, one from the Pacific basin and the other in the Indian Ocean basin.
Interestingly though, genetic records of the coconut from ancient times also provide evidence of it being found on the prehistoric trade routes during the colonization of the Americas. An American botanist called Orator F. Cook also hypothesized that the coconut first originated in the Americas. This hypothesis stemmed from his belief that it was the population of the American coconuts that spread throughout Europe.
Coconuts are often referred to as the “Swiss Army Knife” of the plant kingdom. This unique and interesting name is a result of it being such a versatile food commodity that serves multiple purposes. It is like a complete package that consists of highly nutritious food content, potable
water, fibrous materials inside that can be easily spun into rope and also a hard shell-exterior that can be transformed into charcoal.
However, putting all of that aside, there is a reason why it is called a “miracle food”. It is believed to be a natural healing wonder that caters to a myriad of health issues and problems.
Here are some of the top and most amazing benefits of coconuts. They are:
- Help promote weight loss
- Have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasite properties that help support and protect your immune system.
- Keep your skin and hair healthy and in excellent condition by preventing hair fall, fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and spots.
- Enhance your digestive system and foster a better absorption of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in the body.
- Improve cholesterol levels in the body and reduce the risk of heart diseases and ailments.
Coconut Nutritional Facts Chart
Types of Coconuts
There is a single species of the coconut plant, and Cocos nucifera (the coconut palm) is the only palm tree that produces coconuts.
However, within that single species, there are different varieties of the coconut that are further categorized into various types and groups.
Main Coconut Varieties
The tall coconut varieties are one of the most common types of the coconut palm, and two of the tall cultivars that are expansively grown are the East Coast Tall and the West Coast Tall. They live up to an average of 80-90 years and grow to an altitude of 3,000 ft., well above the sea level. These trees typically attain a height of 15-18m or even more sometimes.
The tall varieties of coconut palms thrive under different soil conditions including red loams and littoral sands. They are also fairly resistant to pests and diseases. The nut of coconuts from these trees is medium-big sized, and they often sport varying colors including shades of brown, yellow, green and orange.
These can also cross-pollinate which suggests that they end up sharing their genetic material with several other trees. This results in increased variation in terms of the characteristics of the coconut.
As the name suggests, the Dwarf coconut varieties are smaller than their tall counterparts, and they grow to an average height of 20 to 60 feet. Their average lifespan is 40-50 years, and they start bearing fruit earlier than the tall coconut varieties.
The nuts of coconuts from the dwarf palm trees are small in size and round in shape, weighing about 3 oz (85 gm). These trees are highly susceptible to drought, and they typically produce yellow, green and orange colored nuts.
Unlike the tall varieties, the dwarf ones mostly self-pollinate, which means they don’t have as many variations as the former. However, they do produce more fruit, which is normally smaller in size compared to those produced by the tall palm trees.
Hybrid Coconut Varieties
These are a cross between two morphological forms of coconut that are mainly produced through two different ways. One way includes a tall female parent and a dwarf male parent, and the other way involves using dwarf as the female parent and tall as the male parent.
The hybrid varieties exhibit early flowering and yield an excellent quality of produce, as compared to the parent varieties. They also perform exceptionally well when provided with good growing conditions including proper irrigation and nutrient management.
Sub-Grouped Coconut Varieties
Cocos nucifera (the coconut palm) is the single coconut-producing palm tree; however, several varieties of this palm are grown and cultivated in many different countries. These sub-varieties significantly vary in terms of the taste of the coconut water, the taste of the fruit and also the color. You might also find slight variations in several other genetic factors.
Some of the most common and popular of these coconut varieties include the following.
These are hybrid coconut varieties that are extremely high yielding and are best grown in tropical locations. They typically require free draining soil and require deep organic mulch in their surrounding areas in order to grow well.
This variety is believed to be the most widespread dwarf coconut in the world. It was first introduced in Malaysia between the periods of 1890-1900 by Indonesian planters. When younger, the fruits of this variety are initially pale yellow-green and once they have grown old, the color of the leaf stalk, seedling sprouts and the fruit turn to just pale yellow.
The Malayan yellow dwarf varieties are commonly grown in several countries including Thailand, Fiji, India, Brazil, and Jamaica, to name a few. They typically produce oblong and medium sized fruits that normally weigh up to 700 – 800 gm.
This coconut variety has a lifespan of 40 years, and the average plant height goes up to 5.05 m. It produces reddish yellow colored nuts that are usually round shaped. It takes about 3 -4 years before it initially begins the flowering process and is best suited for tender nit water.
The fruit of this coconut variety has both sweet-tasting water and high meat content. The average annual yield of the dwarf orange coconut is 63 palms or nuts over a span of a single year. It is able to self-pollinate, which suggests that it doesn’t have any further types or variations.
The golden Malay coconut variety is mostly grown in Bulgaria and is imported from Indonesia. These palm trees produce beautiful bronze to red colored fruit, and they are best grown outside of the tropics in sheltered and warm positions.
These are also best grown in areas with organic mulch in the surroundings, and they typically require free draining soils. Their average height goes to more than 12 meters and the plants spread, or width is typically 8 to 12 meters.
The golden Malay coconut variety starts producing fruit at an early age, and the fruits have a very ornamental golden-orange color. They also produce excellent quality drinking water and also the fruit content that is ideal for cooking purposes.
This variety of coconut originated from Jamaica and is typically referred to as a “sturdy coconut”. The Maypan coconut belongs to the hybrid coconut varieties and is grown to be exceptionally resistant to the Lethal Yellowing, a disease that commonly attacks several palm species.
These coconuts have also been engineered to be a super hardy, cold and tough palm that can resist against adverse growing conditions.
The Maypan coconut is a medium to large sized palm that reaches an average height of 18 meters. They are best grown in areas that have temperatures above 40 degrees F.
This coconut variety is native to Sri Lanka and a part of India and is a bit shorter than other palm tree varieties. King coconuts grow to an average of 20-20 meters and produce about 20 nuts in clusters. They are shaped like a football, sporting an elongated oval shape. They measure to an average of 20 to 30 centimeters in length, and their skin has a bright orange tint to it.
King coconuts are available all year round and are usually harvested after 7-8 months of maturity. Their nut produces a super sweet and flavorful liquid that is very hydrating, cooling and refreshing.
This variety of coconuts contains a rich nutritional value profile, including large sources of vitamins, amino acids, sodium, potassium, phosphate, and chloride. Interestingly, the liquid inside king coconuts has more amount of calcium as compared to orange, and it also contains a higher potassium content than a banana. These coconuts also contain bioactive enzymes that help boost the body’s metabolism and greatly aids in digestion.
King coconuts are primarily for their milk and also the liquid that is contained within their rinds.
Fiji dwarf coconut varieties are highly demanded not just for their fruit and other by-products but also for their beautiful landscape element. They are a more durable coconut variety and have often been described as a “one tough nut”.
Research shows that the Fiji dwarf coconut contains the second highest genetic diversity compared to all other coconut varieties. They are highly resistant to diseases, unlike many tall coconut varieties. They also have a very unique leaf structure that sets them apart from other coconut varieties. Their leaflets have a closer spacing that makes them appear more lush and rich.
This is also commonly known as the “kopyor coconut” and is a dwarf mutant tree. It is a naturally occurring mutant that produces soft, jelly-like flesh due to an abnormal development of its endosperm. This results in an under-nourished embryo, which is called a “collapsed embryo”.
Although the Macapuno coconut has almost the same nutritional content as a normal or regular coconut, its unusual development produces a different kind of shell that has gelatinous coconut meat with almost little to no liquid.
This variety is not common in a lot of countries however; it is quite famous in Asia where it is highly prized as a sweet delicacy. It is used to make a number of desserts and sweets that are sold at a higher price as compared to those made with the regular coconuts.
The texture of these coconuts is firm but soft, and they contain pleasant sweet, nutty taste. They contain a significant amount of protein and oils which make them a good nutritional source of food.
This coconut variety takes about 6 to 8 years of bearing time and yield about 70 nuts per year. They contain 64 percent of oil content, and they best grow in red loamy soils and well-drained deep sandy loam soils.
These are moderately tolerant to major pests like scale insects, mites, mealy bugs, and rhinoceros beetles.
The West coast tall coconut variety is also known as Common Tall Variety and easily grows in all types of soils. These palm trees grow exceptionally well in littoral sand and also those soils that are tolerant of moisture.
These take an average bearing time of 6-7 years and yield about 80 nuts or palms per year. They also yield a significant amount of coconut water or juice that can be later converted into juice.
Now that you know the various different types of coconuts and coconut trees that exist, which ones are you going to use in your next coconut dessert?