Where Do Coconuts and Coconut Oil Come from?


I grew up in Africa in the Ivory Coast, and we would always drive through acres and acres of coconut plantations on the way to the beach. When I was small, I thought coconuts grew everywhere. I remember peddlers going through the street ringing a bell and yelling in French, “coconuts, fresh coconuts for sale”. They would sell these coconuts for around $.20 apiece (50 CFA). Growing up I remember it was such a treat, it was better than ice cream.


Coconuts tend to grow not more than 15° north or south of the equator. The biggest population of coconuts are in Southeast Asia. Coconuts also grow well in India, along the coast of east and west Africa, and in the Caribbean and Central America. The coconut plant is one of the most essential plants for people living in this area. A coconut plant can take anywhere from 4 to 6 years before it starts bearing fruit. There are two classifications for coconut trees, the dwarf trees and the tall trees. In total, there are 80 different varieties, but these are the two major groups into which they can be classified. The dwarf variety typically self pollinate, and the tall varieties will cross pollinate. Dwarf coconut trees, can bear fruit in as little as three or four years. Tall coconut trees can take as long as six or seven years to start bearing fruit and can reach a height of over 20 m (60 ft). A tall coconut tree can fifth 20 years to reach full maturity as far as coconut production goes.

coconut oilIn order for coconuts to grow, the soil conditions have to be very fertile. Coconuts really like volcanic soil because it is so rich and phosphate, and other nutrients. Coconut plants can grow above or below the 15° Latitude Mark, but when they do they typically do not bear fruit. Coconut plants can be used for food, for fuel, for making houses, and in the last few years, they have also been used to make biofuel.

Coconut meat can be ground up to produce coconut oil. Typically, it takes about 40 to 60 coconuts to produce one gallon of pure coconut oil. Coconut oil can be healthy, and has a long shelf life because it contains higher-quality, unprocessed saturated fats. Coconut oil becomes a solid at around 76 degrees, this is probably one of the reasons why you do not find coconut trees bearing fruit above 15° North latitude. If the temperatures get below 75, for any length of time, the coconut tree will not bear fruit. In addition, Coconuts have to be grown fairly close to sea level. If there very close to the equator, they can grow up to 700 m above sea level. As they get closer to the 15° limit, they have to also remain closer to the sea. This is because the ocean helps to keep the temperature consistent. Coconut trees need to have consistent temperatures in order to grow well and bear fruit.

Most of the time, coconut plants like to grow in areas that get lots of water. Since they do not have a taproot, they have no way of getting water if it stops raining on a regular basis.

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