Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Coconuts are the largest and most important of all nuts. They are the stone of a drupe, the fruit of Cocos nucifera, large (to 100 ft/30 m) tree-like palms that are more closely related to the grasses than to other nut trees. They’re thought to have originated in tropical Asia, but their hardy fruits apparently floated to many parts of the world before humans began to transport them. They were largely unknown to Europe until the early Middle Ages. About 20 billion nuts are produced each year, mainly in the Philippines, India, and Indonesia. The word coconut comes from the Portuguese coco, which means goblin or monkey. The markings on the stem end of the nut can look uncannily like a face. The tiny embryo resides under one of the eyes, through which it grows when it sprouts.