If you like the taste of coconut, you may wonder what category it falls under. Read on to learn whether it’s a fruit, nut, seed, or vegetable and which group it’s primarily a part of.
What Makes a Coconut a Fruit?
A coconut is a fruit more so than any other type of food. Many lay people may consider the coconut to be a fruit because it tastes sweet. It also grows on a tree, but the coconut palm isn’t actually a true tree.
However, botanists classify the coconut as a fruit because it falls under the category of drupes. Specifically, it’s a fibrous one-seeded drupe.
Drupes feature a hard cover that goes over the seed. There’s the endocarp, which is the innermost layer just over the seed. After that, you have the mesocarp and finally the exocarp.
However, when you shop for a coconut at your local grocery store, it will only have the endocarp.
What Makes a Coconut a Nut?
A coconut isn’t a true nut, but many people may think of it as such. One definition of “nut” is that it’s a one-seeded fruit. Coconuts fall into that definition.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet stricter requirements for nuts. For example, true nuts don’t open when they mature in order to release their seeds. Animal digestion and the decay of the fruit wall are the only things that cause nuts to open.
What Makes a Coconut a Seed?
You may also think of the coconut as a seed. As mentioned, it’s a one-seeded fruit. The seed of a fruit is the part of a flowering plant where reproduction occurs.
A coconut includes three pores, or eyes, on one end. Shoots will come out through those pores after a baby plant grows inside. However, a coconut is still more of a fruit than a seed.
Why a Coconut Isn’t a Vegetable?
While you may be able to argue that a coconut is a fruit, nut, or seed, the same isn’t as true for it being a vegetable.
For one, “vegetable” is more of a culinary term than a botanical term. A good example of this is the tomato, which is botanically a fruit but often treated as a vegetable in the kitchen. When cooking with coconut, you almost always treat it as a fruit, nut, or seed.
Now, you could argue it fits an older definition of a vegetable. Specifically, this is the definition that claims a vegetable is anything from a plant that humans can eat. However, that would make all other fruits vegetables, and not many people use this definition.
Similar Fruits to the Coconut
The coconut is primarily a fruit even though it does meet the criteria for other types of foods. But what makes it more of a fruit is that it’s part of the drupe family. Consider some other popular members:
Even certain nuts, like almonds and pecans, are part of the drupe family. You can also include fruits like raspberries and blackberries. Technically, these are drupelets because they consist of groups of small drupes together.
How to Use the Coconut
No matter how you categorize it, you can use coconut in a few different ways. The most common option is to consume it, but you have other options. Here are some methods by which you can consume coconut.
Eat It on Its Own
One of the easiest options is to cut up a coconut and eat it as-is. You can have it as a snack or add it to a fruit salad or on its own as a side to a meal.
Another option is to dry the coconut and eat it later. Coconut is sweet and can make you feel like you’re on the beach.
If you can’t find fresh coconut, check your grocery store freezer aisle. You may be able to find frozen coconut chunks. Of course, you can also freeze fresh coconut if you like the cooler temperatures of the frozen stuff.
Add It to Recipes
Many people will add coconut to a recipe, either for food or a drink. For example, the pina colada combines coconut with pineapple. You can add fresh coconut to your drink to make it taste better.
If you like to bake, you can find tons of recipes that call for coconut. Make coconut bars for dessert, or add coconut to bread for sweet bread.
Some recipes also allow you to swap coconut milk for dairy milk. That can be a nice option if you’re lactose intolerant or if you want to stick to a vegan diet.
Drink Coconut Water
Coconut water is another amazing product that you can find at many grocery stores. In the past, doctors would use it instead of regular intravenous (IV) fluids when they didn’t have enough regular IV fluids.
More recently, people have started drinking it instead of regular water. It contains electrolytes, so it’s a great alternative to Gatorade and other workout drinks that are high in artificial sugars.
Use Coconut Oil
Another recent option for how to use coconut is to get coconut oil. Some people use it as a moisturizer on their skin. It may help relieve skin irritation and even protect your skin from the sun.
Of course, you can also cook with it and add it in place of other oils. It can be safer than corn oil and other oils at extremely high temperatures.