Coconut—is it a fruit? a nut? a seed? Coconut can be a fruit, a nut, and a seed. Scientifically, it is a fibrous, one-seeded drupe. Brown and hairy on the outside, white and creamy on the inside, coconut is a fruit which grows on coconut palm trees and is widely found in the tropics and subtropics.
Coconut is from the Arecaceae family, also known as the palm family. Theories of where the plant originated stretch from the Americas, the Indo-Pacific region, and Australia. The coconut tree grows up to 80 feet tall with large sweeping leaves about 19 feet long, producing the first fruit at about 6-10 years, but not producing its peak crop until 15-20 years old.
The coconut has four layers: the smooth, greenish, thin outermost “skin” of the drupe or the exocarp; the fibrous husk known as the mesocarp; the hard woody layer surrounding the flesh, called the endocarp; and the white, fleshy, edible meat or endosperm, which surrounds the hollow, fluid-filled, central cavity housing a translucent, sweetly flavored fluid.
Depending on the age of the coconut, the texture of the meat will vary. Younger coconuts produce a gelatinous, jelly-like meat with a light flavor that can easily be eaten from its shell with a spoon. More mature coconuts provide firmer, sweeter meat that is rigidly attached to the shell.
Most parts of the tree and fruit can be used for a range of culinary and non-culinary uses, earning it the Malayan title of “the tree of one thousand uses.” The fruit of the coconut yields milk, oil, water, flour and solids, making it an extremely versatile fruit for cooking and baking.
Recipe – Maple Almond Ice Cream
3 cups almond milk, unsweetened
1 can lite or full fat coconut milk (depending on preferred richness)
1 ½ cups cashews
¾ cup maple syrup (less, if desired)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract, alcohol-free
pinch of salt
- Put all ingredients into a high-speed blender. Blend until creamy and smooth.
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- Churn for about 45 minutes or until solid.
- Or freeze mixture in ice cube trays until solid. Place cubes in blender and blend lightly.
- Sprinkle with crushed pistachios, roasted pecans or walnuts.
- Enjoy this creamy, smooth, delectable dairy free dessert.