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The name is based on an old Portuguese/Spanish word meaning "grinning face" - after the dark spots at one end resembling eyes and a mouth.

It has had culinary uses in China and the Far East since earliest civilisation. While its broad leaves are ideal for the thatching of tropical houses, the trunk for timber, the seeds covering hair for matting and the oil in cosmetics and soap. Wine can be made from the natural internal liquid.

When the coconut is harvested young and green, the flesh is soft and gelatinous, and there is plenty of coconut "water" (not to be confused with milk) or juice to drink. The exported mature fruits, which take a year to ripen, have less juice and more solid, waxy flesh (also known as copra), which can be processed to give products such as coconut milk, creamed coconut and desiccated coconut. See 'Coconut; How to crack'; 'Coconut Products in the supermarket'; 'Coconut Milk & Cream';

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton French Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards. Small classes.

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