Known as the Tree of Life due to its incredible value to man and the large number of products and byproducts that can be created by it, the coconut is the edible fruit of the coconut palm, a tree of the palm family. Coconuts probably originated somewhere in Indo-Malaya and are one of the most important crops of the tropics. The coconut flesh is high in fat and can be dried or eaten fresh or processed into coconut milk or coconut oil. The liquid of the nut, known as coconut water, is used in beverages. A single coconut palm may yield 100 coconuts annually, and each fruit requires a year to fully ripen. Mature coconuts have a thick fibrous husk surrounding the familiar single-seeded nut and a hard shell encloses the insignificant embryo with its abundant endosperm, composed of both meat and liquid. Coconut fruits float readily and have been dispersed widely by ocean currents and by humans throughout the tropics. A coconut palm itself can live as long as 100 hundred years, but her productive period is around 25 years. As the coconut develops the coconut palm naturally filters water through its many fibres, purifying it as it travels to be stored inside the sterile coconut.
Besides the edible kernels and the drink obtained from green nuts, the harvested coconut also yields copra, the dried extracted kernel, or meat, from which coconut oil, a major vegetable oil, is expressed. The meat may also be grated and mixed with water to make coconut milk, which is used in cooking and as a substitute for cow’s milk. The oil which is generated from the coconut is edible, can also be applied on the skin and contains various antifungal, antiviral, antioxidants and antibacterial elements. The dry husk yields coir, a fibre highly resistant to salt water and used in the manufacture of ropes, mats, baskets, brushes, and brooms.
In Indian culture, specifically Hinduism, the coconut is referred to as a divine or God’s fruit and is one of the most important parts of rituals and customs because it represents the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the creator, protector and destroyer. The three dots in the coconut symbolises the three eyes of Lord Shiva with another belief system suggesting that the kernel symbolises Devi Parvati, the water signifies Ganga, and the brown shell represents Lord Kartikeya. The coconut is also compared to a human head. The fibre is the hair, the shell is the skull, the water is blood, and the flesh represents the brain. Therefore, by offering a coconut, a devotee surrenders themselves or their mind and bows before the Supreme Power. It is also said that the coconut shell represents ego, the soft pulpy part is the human heart, and the water symbolises purity. Therefore, a devotee can experience God’s grace only when he breaks their ego and surrenders before the Almighty with a pure heart. Thus, it reminds us that ego stops us from embracing the goodness all around us. Therefore, it inspires us to get rid of ignorance and embrace knowledge or God.
To showcase this incredible fruit, World Coconut Day is celebrated every year today to highlight and raise awareness about the importance and benefits of coconut. The day began in 2009 when the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community or the APCC, in collaboration with UN-ESCAP or the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific was founded. The APCC is an intergovernmental organisation that supervises and facilitates Asia-Pacific states that produce coconuts. Headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia, all major coconut-growing countries are members of APCC. World Coconut Day is organised to highlight APCC’s policies and promote this tropical fruit. So today, drink coconut water, make something out of coconut, maybe a coconut barfi or just eat the flesh of the coconut to celebrate this incredible fruit.