Coconut: Early History and Dissemination

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The coconut is mentioned in Indian documents BC (see Achaya, 1994), but remained unknown in the western world for a long time.

No part of Asia west of India is suitable for it, and climate also barred it from China, although it was known in the south, and was taken north as an exotic delicacy.

Marco Polo encountered coconuts in Java and Nicobar in the 13th century; and Vasco da Gama found the palms growing on an island off Mozambique in 1497/8. It seems likely that Arab traders had been responsible, much earlier, for introducing it to E. Africa.