A coconut’s growth stages from a scientific point of view can be quite fascinating. Of course it doesn’t start with the coconut. It starts with the palm tree that the coconut came from. In fact it starts even earlier if we get into the growth stages of a coconut palm tree. We’ll save that subject for another time. For now let’s start with the palm tree.
A standard coconut palm is said to produce as much as 50 coconuts per year. Each of these coconuts require roughly the same amount of time to grow. From there it is important to know what growth stage a coconut has reached so you know when best to harvest it.
Stage One: During the early stages, flowers start to form around the palm leaves of the coconut palm tree. These flowers are where the nut forms and eventually grows into a bright green fruit. Often these fruits will start to fall off from the tree due to their immaturity. For the coconuts that manage to hang on, they will continue to grow. At this growth stage of the coconut, the liquid stored inside can be drained. Commonly referred to as coconut water, a large coconut even in an immature state can hold as much as one liter inside. In my personal experience with green coconuts, the average amount of liquid I have extracted was around 8 to 10 ounces.
Stage Two: This is the point where the coconut begins to ripen. The coconut’s lovely green color starts to turn brown. At this point, if you decide to cut into the coconut you may get access to incredibly soft meat. Due to the early ripening stages, the coconut meat consist of very thin white layer. While the texture of the meat is somewhat between being gel like and like a hard boiled egg, many people would find it quite delicious. For some the soft meat combined with the liquid inside is referred to as coconut milk.
Stage Three: At this point if the coconut still has a firm grasp of the tree it’s on it will continue to ripen. The outside part of the of the coconut also known as the Exocarp is becoming harder. The coconut meat on the inside begins to thicken and becomes harder as well. The hardened gel or meat can be removed from the shell and given many uses. The meat could be dried up and shredded and used as flakes to go on various types on meals. If the shell is simply split and left to be dried into the sun, the dried meat now becomes “copra” . This copra can be converted into coconut oil which we will soon learn has various uses.
Stage Four: This is the final growth stage of the coconut. At this point the coconut was never harvested and was given permission to fully ripen on the tree it came from. While completing its maturity process the coconut begins to germinate. The germination process is the final stage of the coconut before the cycle starts over again. The coconut meat and liquid are fully absorbed at this point. If cracked open a white sponge feeling ball has formed within the coconut. Though some may be tempted to taste test this coconut ball it is not recommended as depending on how long the coconut has been germinated the ball may be poisonous.