Almost all plants have a season during the year in which they produce flowers and fruit. In South Florida mangos bloom in early winter, and then in the summer we harvest the fruit. In December and January, lychees typically bloom, and then around June we enjoy eating them. The mangos you see in the stores throughout the year are coming from other countries that are closer or are on the other side of the equator.
But there is a plant here in South Florida that gives us fruit year round: The Coconut!
The beautiful, exotic coconut with its graceful leaves and plentiful fruits can be enjoyed all year long! Its tree is symbolic of the tropics and is grown worldwide in tropical and subtropical climates. It can produce a stalk of nuts (called a bunch) about every month. Depending on the care the tree receives about 10 or so nuts will be produced in each bunch, which means one tree can keep you in coconuts pretty much all year. At the Fruit & Spice Park, we have over 100 coconut trees, which means we have a ton of coconuts to share with park visitors.
It was believed that the coconut spread throughout the Polynesian islands from the nuts that floated from one island to another, but since the nuts rot after a few weeks the major spread of this plant was by man who traveled from one island to another in canoes.
The coconut was a perfect traveling food. The water inside the nut was an excellent source of nutrients and water, and the white meat inside provided food. Plus, they needed no refrigeration! Once man landed on a new island, coconuts were planted near the shore where the tree tolerated salt water and where the cycle continued.
Most of the coconuts worldwide are grown for the copra inside the nut, which is the white flesh that is dried. When the copra is pressed it yields oil for cooking and also for the production of soap, margarine and cosmetics. In the Redland the coconuts are grown mainly for the coconut water inside the nut called coco frio, which makes for a refreshing drink. Coconut milk is the liquid obtained from grinding and pressing the white meat of the mature nut and is used in many ethnic dishes such as curries. The leaves are used for weaving baskets and mats and the whole fronds are used as thatching on rooves.
When you come to the Park, stop by the store for a taste of fresh coconut. It’s available any day of the year!