Where coconuts grow

Coconuts growing on a coconut tree Getty images

Coconuts growing on a coconut tree
Getty images

Coconuts grow naturally in over 80 countries.
Coconuts are grown in plantations in countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. The Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts, and Indonesia the second largest.

Coconut trees

A coconut tree grows very tall, lives for about 80 years and produces hundreds of coconuts and thousands of litres of sap in its life. Coconut trees can grow to 30 metres tall, and each leaf grows to about 4-5 m.

A coconut beginning to shoot. ©iStock

A coconut beginning to shoot. ©iStock

When coconuts fall from the tree and into the sea or rivers, they float until they reach land.  If they land in a suitable spot, they begin to grow shoots and roots. The juice inside the coconut feeds the plant until it can take root.  

Uses for the coconut

After harvesting, every part of the coconut is used. The juice inside the coconut is a refreshing drink, the flesh is grated and dried, or eaten fresh, or used to make coconut milk. The dried shells, or husks, are used to make kitchen utensils, musical instruments and other objects.  

The white flesh inside is called coconut meat.

Coconuts have a thick, green outer coating called a husk. It is cut away to reach the hard brown nut, and its fibres are called coir and are used to make ropes, sacks, mattress stuffing and doormats.

Coconut milk is put it into curries, sweets, desserts and drinks. The green fibrous outer layer of the coconut is used as fuel, to make thatched roofs or to stuff mattresses.

 A coconut flower ©iStock

 A coconut flower ©iStock

Dried coconut meat is called copra. Copra is used to produce oil, which is used in many products, including soap.

Coconut sugar

Sugar is made from the sap of the coconut flower buds. Bamboo tubes are placed to collect the sap that oozes from the buds, about one litre a day. The sap is boiled until crystals form, and poured into moulds to set. The light brown sugar is called palm sugar, and has a delicate flavour.

Coconut syrup

Coconut syrup is made from coconut sap. It is made by boiling coconut sap. The sap is heated to 75-80 degrees to evaporate (boil away) the water content in the coconut sap. Coconut syrup contains 72-75% sugar and is a dark brown colour. The colour, sweetness and flavour of the coconut syrup may vary slightly depending on the coconut species used, the season and where the coconut palm is growing. Coconut syrup can be used as you would use honey, as a sweetener or as a topping for yoghurt. It's delicious!



In some places in Thailand, coconuts are harvested by trained monkeys called ling gaeng. The monkeys climb the trees, pick the coconuts and toss them to the ground.  

Coconut-picking monkeys are also used in parts of Malaysia.

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