It is impossible to state categorically if the coconut trees – which can grow to a height of 30 m and can live up to a century – are native to South America, the islands of the South Sea or the Indonesian region. The fact that the palm has spread, may be due to its fruit, since there is evidence that it can float up to 4,500 km, transported by ocean currents and ready to sprout. Coconut palms have been used for 2,500 years. The term coco is Spanish and means ‘clown’ or ‘grotesque’. Captain Boyd, English, was the first person to bring coconuts to England, in 1820, although Dutch and Portuguese settlers had been regularly growing palms in their colonies since 1740. Of all the useful plants, the coconut palm is the only one used completely by humans without wasting any part, producing a range of byproducts that includes the arrak (palm brandy).
The coconut palm grows within limited coordinates 20º North and 20º South, and is a plant that has an important role in the world economy. The temperature can not fall below 20 ° C, since the palms do not flower at lower temperatures. The oil is obtained from the coconuts harvested by the “coconut climbers” or by the pickers of the fallen fruit. Then the fruit opens and the pulp dries, which gives rise to the copra, with an oil content of 60-70%, which is subsequently purified, crumbled, flaked and conditioned, and then the oil (oil of raw coconut) is squeezed. Alternatively, the oil can be obtained by extraction after crumbling it. And then the crude oil is refined (fat or refined coconut oil).
At room temperature, the oil (fat) is a white or pale yellow substance with the consistency of melted fat. It gives off a faint odor of coconut and becomes quite rancid in contact with the air. It is rich in lauric and myristic acid and melts at approx. 28ºC. This characteristic makes the oil (fat) pleasant in the mouth (refreshing effect), which is used in the confectionery industry as filling for waffles, in toppings and in ice cream. The description of the product as an “oil” or a “fat” really depends on the local terminology. In Europe, people tend to consider it as a fat, while people in tropical countries, where it is produced, tend to consider it as an oil. It is also used for cooking and baking, as well as in the production of margarine. Coconut oil has an important role in the cosmetic industry as a base for ointments, sunscreens and body moisturizers. In industrial chemical products, it acts as a raw material for alkyd resins. In the aluminum industry, it is used as fat during the corrugation and deep drawing processes, while the food industry uses it for dietetic products and baby foods.