Coconuts are classified to be a fibrous one seeded drupe, which is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed. Since all parts of the coconut are used, coconuts are called the `tree of life` and can produce a drink, fiber, food, fuel, utensils, and musical instruments. Surprisingly botanist’s argue that coconut palm is not a tree because it has no bark, no branches or any secondary growth. It is a woody perennial monocotyledonous tree with a trunk being the stem.
The coconut tree is a member of the arecaceae family (palm family) its scientific name is cocos nucifera. Coconut fruits are large and nearly round. There husks is hard, medium brown and has a rough, hairy surface. Kenya Coconut trees are about 100feet and have a life time of about 75 to 100years. Once planted, they take 4 -5years to start producing its fruits. These trees are grown all over the world in the tropics especially in the coastal regions, with different taste of their meat and water attributed to saline content of soil, distance from the sea-shore and amount of rainfall.
Climatic conditions for coconut growth
Coconuts are drought tolerant but also are moisture loving plants. They grow in sandy and loamy soils mostly in the tropical climate that has a well distributed rainfall of 1300-2300mm per annum. Temperatures are about 20-32 C with humidity of about 80-85%.coconut trees like plenty of sunshine and would not do well when grown under a tree or in a cloudy condition. Coconut is grown in different soil types like laterite, coastal sandy, alluvial, it tolerates salinity and a wide range of ph 5-8.
Coconut pest and diseases include, stem bleeding disease, red ring nematode, meal bugs, lethal yellowing, lethal bole rot, gray leaf blight, ganoderma butt rot, coconut scale, coconut rhinoceros beetle, and coconut foliar delay among others.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT
- Cytokinins like kitetin and trans-zeatin in coconut water has anti ageing, anti carcinogenic and anti thrombotic effects
- Coconut juice is packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, minerals and bioactive compounds which aid in digestion and metabolism.
- Coconut contains fatty acid, lauric acid which increases good- HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. This element has beneficial effects on the coronary arteries by preventing vessel blockage.
- Coconut oil extracts from dry kernel are used in cooking, applied over the scalp as hair nourishment, and employed in pharmacy and in medicines.
- Coconut is an important and indispensible food item for people in the tropical coastal regions. it is a complete source of food rich in calories, vitamins and minerals.
- Coconut oil helps in burning body fats
- Coconuts are excellent for immunity because it has anti viral, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-parasitic elements.
- It is good in promoting healthy bones and teeth. It does this by improving the bodies capability of absorbing calcium and magnesium.
Maturity and harvesting signs of coconut
Kenya Coconut usually mature in about 350 to 375 days after appearance of the inflorescence.the fruit changes from green to yellowish or brownish,and on thumping the fruit produces a peculiar metabolic sound.Also point to note is that all nuts in same branch mature at the same time and with uniformity. In Kenya harvesting is done by climbing the tree using ladder or ropes.
Value addition in coconut has gretely improved coconut farming along the coast due to high returns received for the sale of much valued coconut products like coconut oil,coconut wine among others.