Coconut is one of the most dynamic treasures you can find in the produce department. The oil itself is handy to have around for everything from relieving sunburns to removing your make-up. On top of that, we all love coconut in the world’s favorite fruity blend of pineapple and coconut, the iconic pina colada. But this begs the question you probably never thought to ask. We know pineapple is a fruit, but what is a coconut?
What Are Coconuts: Fruits, Nuts, or Seeds?
Although most people would say it looks like a nut and even has the word in its name, the coconut is, in fact, a fruit. It falls under the category of fruit for the simple fact that it bears its seed inside and contains fleshy, edible goodness (mesocarp, or flesh). But because of its hard exterior shell, this nutritious tree gem falls into a subcategory of fruits called drupes.
Known as the stone fruit, a drupe is a fruit with a hard, stony covering enclosing its seed (endocarp), often referred to as the pit. Drupes contain an outer fleshy part surrounding this pitted seed. When you pluck a coconut from a pile at the market, you are actually holding the “seed” itself. The white, fleshy “fruit” we consume is simply the insides of the pit. However, foods that aren’t fruits fall under the drupe category.
Other drupe fruits include olives, cherries, mangoes, apricots, nectarines, dates, peaches, and plums. There are two main categories for fleshy fruits, the other being berries, except raspberries would be considered a drupelet.
However, not all drupes are fruits. Many nuts are, in fact, drupes. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios are all in the drupe category, except the nut you eat is actually the seed inside the fruit’s pit. Avocados are just weird. They’re classified as a berry with a seed like a drupe.
So, What Is a Coconut?
As we already established, the coconut is a drupe fruit, and the walnut is a drupe nut, but they certainly go beautifully together in a bowl. Perhaps one of the appetizing features of the beloved coconut is its name – cracking open a hard, nutty shell to get to the milky white fruit that has so many nutrients and offers countless possibilities. Sure, the coconut is a member of the mixed-up, dubious drupe family tree, but don’t let it drive you nuts!