From the serene, tropical shores of the South Pacific isles, the coconut began its journey—an around-the-world trek via merchant ships, ocean currents, folklore and the cuisine of coastal cultures it touched along the way.
The coconut came quite the long way—which makes enjoying its familiar, milky flavor that much sweeter!
Take a look below as we explore the coconut’s journey around the globe—and the details that make it a true tropical superfood.
A tropical trek…
We all associate the coconut with the tropics, in one way or another. While the coconut is practically ubiquitous on tropical shorelines across the globe, however, it got its start in a very specific spot: likely, according to historians, on the Indian or Malaysian coast (depending on the type of coconut in question). From there it traveled throughout Asia, even earning itself a mention by the explorer Marco Polo who dubbed it a “nux indica,” or India nut.
While coconuts are now a common feature of Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean coasts, and grow well here, they might have actually been carried over as cargo from world explorers like the Portuguese, whose named the fruit “coconut,” due to its resemblance to a ghostly head, or coco. They weren’t wrong—three small indentations on the coconut husk certainly look like eyes and a mouth, especially when paired with the coconut’s spherical shape!
Despite that hard outer shell, though, the coconut is a hollow fruit (or, more accurately, drupe—a fruit like a peach with a center “stone,” or seed). There is water inside and a bit of meat, but not much else… and that low density helps the coconut float. It’s such a famous floater, in fact, that some have theorized that the coconut actually traveled the world’s oceans on its own accord, thanks to its watertight structure and impeccable endurance for long distances in ocean currents. But its true journey is not known with certainty—maybe its spread across the globe was a combination of explorers and natural forces?
… and a cultural cornerstone
No matter how it traveled, the coconut left no culture untouched in its wake. Sinbad the Sailor in the centuries-old Middle Eastern folklore, One Thousand and One Nights, is described as buying coconut during a voyage, making the tale one of the earliest references to the crop. The coconut palm also made its way into the vernacular of many of the regions it touches—in Sanskrit, it was dubbed kalpa vriksha or “the tree that provides all life’s necessities,” while in Malay, its name pokok seribu guna suggests that it’s “the tree with a thousand uses.”
Just what are some of those uses? There are quite a few…
More than just a nut
Today, as well as throughout history, the coconut has been recognized for its unmatched versatility. Its milk can be used to create creamy, nutty sauces and puddings, such as the one found in our Peach Valley Superfood Breakfast, while its meat can be shredded into soft, flaky bits, sprinkled over desserts or meals like our Housemade Granola. However it is used in the kitchen, the coconut is noted for nutritional benefits like vitamin C, fiber, iron, magnesium and calcium. Taste-wise, it’s a must-have ingredient for any kitchen. Coconut is great for baking since it can sweeten up a dish without a strong, sugary taste—its natural, mild nuttiness does wonders for bakers and cooks alike trying to liven up traditional dishes.
Also, trying new, exciting recipes with coconut can be fun since the coconut oil itself has a high smoke point, so it will stay stable as you fry up your food.
The oil is also beneficial outside of the kitchen, where it can be used as a non-greasy moisturizer, shoe shine or carrier for the scents of your favorite essential oils. These are just the beginning—in the tropical cultures where the coconut really made its mark, the entire coconut palm, from root to fruit, has been used to provide furniture, roofing thatch and much more.
Of course, one of our favorite ways to enjoy coconut is the simplest—stick in a straw and enjoy the sweet, refreshing coconut water right from the fruit as you kick back on the beach. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Craving coconut? Whether you try your own coco-nutty concoction or one of our sweet Peach Valley favorites, this tropical treat is sure to please all summer long.