The coconut: the tree and fruit of life.
The coconut was brought to Europe from Asia Minor by Marco Polo in the 14th Century and was simply called cocho (pronounced coco) in Italian. Derived from the word for head or skull in Spanish, the name is adopted by the French until the 18th Century and transformed into the current noix de coco and the English coconut (at first cocoanut), from the term used in Portuguese. The coconut palm tree can bear 10 to 20 drupes (and not nuts) at any given time and produces up to 100 per year. It is consumed fresh, when its flesh is still gelatinous, as well as at different stages when it dries, in pieces, grated or creamy. It is eaten raw or used in cooking, desserts, ice creams and pastries. Its water is used in cocktails, its milk in savory cooking and its cream and butter handily replace dairy fat, making it an essential ingredient in vegan dishes. Beyond its usefulness as a nourishing food, its wood, shell, husk, leaves and bark are used to make an endless variety of objects: walls and roofs of shelters, bowls, baskets, textiles and even jewelry and sculptures. This is why, in many cultures in Asia and the Americas, it is known as the tree of life!