In honor of this week’s seeds program with Easton’s 2nd Grade, we wanted to address a certain hot button issue that came up last year. The coconut...is it a fruit, a seed, or a nut?
Most of us would assume the coconut is a fruit because of the delicious, sweet insides that many of us enjoy eating, and we would be right to call coconuts fruits because they are! Technically, a coconut is classified as a fibrous, one-seeded drupe, which is a type of fruit. Other examples of drupes are more familiar fruits, including mangos, peaches, plums and cherries. To be classified as a drupe, there must be three layers: an outermost hardened layer called the exocarp; a ‘fleshy,’ usually inedible middle layer called the mesocarp; and a hard, woody layer surrounding the seed called the endocarp. A coconut certainly has all three layers but when you buy one at the grocery, the exocarp and mesocarp have already been removed and you are left with the endocarp. So the coconut is most definitely a fruit and more specifically a drupe.
What about the coconut being a nut? After all, it does have the word ‘nut’ right there in the name. Loosely defined, all a nut really is is a one-seeded fruit, which certainly fits the description of the coconut. However, the coconut is not considered a ‘true nut’ because true nuts only release their seeds when the fruit wall breaks down naturally, which is not the case for the coconut seed. Coconut seeds will sprout and split open their shells when they have fully ripened. So even though coconuts are not true nuts, when you take the basic definition of a nut (one-seeded fruit), you could technically call a coconut a nut.
So there you have it! A coconut can be a fruit, a seed, and a nut all at once, and the next time you get into a debate about coconuts, hopefully you will feel more prepared to explain how we classify them. So bring it on second graders and ask all the coconut questions you want!