Coconut and coconut milk on rustic wooden table

13 Fun Facts About Coconuts

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Coconuts are one of the most versatile fruits (yes, they are fruits!) on the planet. From food to beauty products, these hairy brown orbs can be used in many surprising ways. Keep reading to uncover 13 fascinating tidbits about this tropical drupe.

1. Coconuts are well-traveled

Coconuts likely originated in the Pacific region, possibly Melanesia. But over centuries, ocean currents carried coconuts across the seas to tropical coastlines around the world. Today coconuts grow in over 90 countries, spread far and wide by natural forces long before humans got involved. Talk about well-traveled fruit!

2. They provide food, water, “milk,” sugar, vinegar, and oil all in one package

Early explorers called coconuts the “Tree of Life” because they provide so many essentials for survival. The interior “meat” and liquid are nutritious foods, the husked shell holds potable water, and coconut milk and sugar can be extracted right from the fruit. Plus, you can make coconut vinegar or oil by fermenting or pressing the white meat. No wonder castaways love coconuts – one fruit meets almost all your needs!

3. Every part has a use

In addition to the edible interior and nutritious water, all parts of a coconut palm can be used. The fibrous husks make great rope, brushes, and floor mats. Palm branches are woven into baskets and roof thatching, and the tree trunk provides quality lumber. The coconut shell itself serves as a bowl, ladle, or fuel source. Even the leaves become material for hats, fans, furniture, or heat-resistant cooking surfaces. Coconuts are the ultimate reusable fruit since there’s practically no waste!

4. They “sing” when they’re ripe

Fresh coconut and coconuts oil
Fresh coconut and coconuts oil

An experienced coconut harvester can tell if a fruit is ripe just by shaking it and listening. As the water and meat inside mature, it shrinks from the shell and sloshes around more freely. When you shake an unripe “immature” coconut, it makes more of a dull clunking sound. But the ripened liquid-filled drupes have a higher pitched “sloshing” that islanders say sounds like the coconut is “singing.” Next time you’re near coconut palms, grab a nut and give it a shake to hear this for yourself!

5. Some coconuts can burst open with sound

Speaking of noise, some special coconuts in Southeast Asia explode with sound! These uncommon fruits have an abnormal pearl-like growth in the interior called a gecko. As the coconut ripens, the gecko shrinks more rapidly than the rest of the meat. Eventually, it pulls away from the shell and falls – hitting the inside with a loud “bang!” In Malaysian this is called a “gau” coconut. Don’t worry though, finding one is extremely rare so most coconuts you encounter will be the regular quiet kind.

6. Monkeys were the first coconut harvesters

Humans eventually created specialized tools for picking and processing coconuts once we discovered all their great uses. But before we came along, clever monkeys were the first natural coconut harvesters! They used rocks or their weight to knock the ripe fruits from palms, then consumed the nutrient-rich interior. Some monkeys in Thailand even learned to pinch off the coconut shell’s bottom tip and drink the water straight from the upturned nut! Given how long coconut palms have existed on Earth, primates have likely enjoyed coconut snacks for millions of years.

7. Coconuts can float for over 100 days

The coconut’s thick fibrous husk allows it to float out at sea for long periods and still successfully germinate far from shore. Researchers found a coconut that had been adrift for over 110 days could still float and wash ashore ready to become a tree. This is how coconuts originally traveled such vast oceans to become one of the world’s most prolific tropical plants. Given enough time adrift, theoretically, coconuts could circle the entire planet if they don’t end up growing first on some foreign shore!

8. The “hairy” exocarp insulates the seed

Close up on coconut in pile at harvest season
Close up on coconut in pile at harvest season

Unlike peaches or cherries, most fruits have a thin skin covering the edible pulp inside. But coconuts evolved a different natural strategy thanks to their maritime travel. The brown fuzzy “hair” you see on coconuts is called the exocarp, and it provides insulation from temperature extremes plus protects the seed from bruising on its oceanic journeys. So while the shaggy exterior may not look as appetizing as other fruits, it certainly serves an important purpose!

9. Niu kafa coconuts have multiple “heads”

Occasionally a coconut will develop with two or even three embryos, creating distinct interior lobes each with its own “face” – almost like conjoined twins. In Fiji, these anomaly coconuts are called “niu kafa” which translates to “coconut head.” Since coconut water and meat develop independently in each lobe, the niu kafa essentially bears multiple coconuts worth of edible fruit inside one abnormally large shell. It’s a rare genetic quirk, but a tasty one if you happen to find this Pacific oddity!

10. No ndbomb coconuts explode when dropped

On the flipside, “no ndbomb” or “autobomb” coconuts live up to their alarming name. These odd fruits contain an air pocket between their outer husk and interior shell structure. When ripe and dropped from sufficient height onto a rock, they crack open with a sharp report like a bomb going off! No actual explosion occurs, just focused compression as they hit the ground. But you can understand why Pacific islanders named this variant “coconut bomb” after hearing them detonate off palms. Talk about a memorable way to harvest fruit!

11. Jelly coconuts have a translucent “bubble” interior

Not to be left out, Southeast Asian palms produce their bizarre cultivar called “jelly coconuts” or “bubble coconuts.” Their innards didn’t form into the typical firm white meat. Instead, a thin almost clear gelatinous substance fills the interior cavity with a bubble tea-like consistency. They look unique when whole and hold bubble-shaped mounds of jiggling jelly when scooped out. While most jelly coconuts occur by random genetic chance, horticulturists recently developed the first deliberately grafted cultivars to produce this tropical oddity.

12. Coconut juice can be used for blood transfusions

Unripe coconut water has a nearly identical composition to human blood plasma. In fact, during World War II it was successfully used for emergency transfusions in the Philippines. Plus in recent years, scientists discovered injecting a saline/coconut water blend directly into veins could keep damaged blood cells alive for hours longer than saline alone. While doctors certainly don’t recommend trying DIY transfusions at home, it just shows how amazingly similar coconut fluid is to what runs inside our bodies!

13. Coconut oil pulls bacteria from your mouth

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing oil around your mouth to boost oral health. Recently coconut became a popular choice thanks to lauric acid and other antiviral/antibacterial fatty acids found only in coconut oil. Studies show daily oil pulling with just a tablespoon of coconut oil significantly reduces plaque and gingivitis caused by bacteria. The lipids in coconut oil essentially “pull” microbes right out of your mouth when exposed to saliva for longer than 15 minutes. Pretty cool how coconut consumption benefits you inside and out!

Key Takeaways: Coconut Fun Facts

  • Coconuts naturally traveled for centuries by sea before humans cultivated them across the tropics
  • Almost every part of coconut palms gets used, thus minimizing waste from this sustainable “tree of life”
  • Special coconut varieties like niu kafa, no ndbomb, and jelly coconuts have bizarre shapes or textures
  • Unripe coconut water can substitute for IV saline solution and human blood plasma in emergencies
  • Oil pulling your mouth with coconut oil reduces plaque and bacteria for better dental health

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s inside a coconut?

Coconuts contain edible white meat and sweet, nutrient-rich coconut “milk” inside their hard brown shells. They also slosh with about a cup of drinkable clear coconut water.

Do coconuts contain lactose?

No, coconut milk and meat are entirely dairy-free. The “milk” label refers to its white color and liquid texture only, not any animal lactose content.

Are raw coconuts safe to eat?

Yes, coconut interior and water are perfectly safe to consume fresh. Just crack open the hard shell first with a hammer or machete.

Why are some coconuts hairy?

The shaggy outer husk provides insulation, protects the inner seed on its ocean journeys, and even helps the floating fruit move with wind/currents.

Can coconut oil regrow hair?

Yes! By penetrating follicles better than other fats, coconut oil boosts circulation which promotes thicker, faster hair growth. The lauric acid is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial against follicle infections.

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