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The coconut (cocos nucifera) is regarded as the jewel of the tropics. It is undoubtedly the most economically important palm (often called the tree of life) and is also one of the ten most important tree crops.The coconut contributes significantly to the economies of many countries and is of prime importance to the daily lives of millions of people.
Where did the "coconut" get its name or why is it called "coconut"?
The word "coconut" did not appear until after the Portuguese explorers in the 15th century came after Columbus. When these explorers found this fruit growing on Indian Ocean islands, they described the coconut shell as a coco, or "grinning face" of a monkey because of its 3 dark holes at its base which look like a pop-eyed merry face. From then on, it was referred to as the "coconut".
Although its name was recorded in Sanskrit in the early beginnings of history, the coconut was unknown to the western world until the 6th century, when it was imported into Egypt from the Indian Ocean--and still made little impression, though Marco Polo recognized it as "Pharoah's nut" when he ran across it in India on his travels.
In the Middle Ages, coconuts were so rare and so cherished that their shells were polished and mounted in gold. By the 19th century, however, new transportation routes made them common in European markets--and throwing objects ("coconut shies") at local side shows.
Where did the coconut originate?
The coconut palm has been cultivated for thousands of years and has been so widely distributed by humans that today its center of origin is uncertain and the subject of much speculation. Although its center of origin or birthplace is believed to have been the islands of the south pacific, the coconut itself is not the type of plant to remain static as it is a coloniser. The seed (the coconut itself) FLOATS! By being such a buoyant seed (a big one at that!) it traveled around the world by itself. The nut floats for long distances on ocean currents and if they are washed ashore on a beach on a suitable climate, the plant will become established and colonize the area. The coconut seed, with all that fiber and oil, was the perfect botanical boat ! It has the inherent ability to "sail" its own "ships" on the tropical oceans and was able to populate the warm climates around the world.
The original coconut is believed to be the tall growing variety with a thick husk. Plants of such wild type occur naturally in the Philippines and northeastern Australia.
More than 13 million people are directly or indirectly involved with coconut products. Coconuts are now widely grown in the tropical regions of the world. World production of coconuts is more than 3000 hectares. The major producers are the Philippines, Indonesia and India.


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