In the State of Kerala where ever you go, in the areas of mountains, hills,valleys,seashores- there is a common sight of so many coconut palm trees standing majestically up to a height of 70-100 feet holding as a crown a group of 20-30 wide and long green leaves with bunches of coconuts in between the base of leaves. The coconut trees add beauty to the greenery of this state.The people of Kerala are very fond of this tree and tries to plant two or three of them near their house even if they own only a small plot of land. It is because the single trunk coconut tree needs only a small area to grow and generally it withstands wind currents of high velocity and so safe also to grow near the house.
In Kerala coconut tree is given the credit as 'Kalpa Vriksham' which means all parts of this tree are useful.An average tree provides about 150-200 coconut fruits every year.Without much care and maintenance the tree gives this average production and if fertilizers are given more yield can be expected.India is the 3rd largest coconut producing country in the world. First and second positions goes to Philippines and Indonesia.In India Kerala produces the largest proportion which is nearly half of of the total production and Tamil Nadu produces 26%,Karnataka 10.8% and in the states of Goa,Maharashtra and Orissa also this trees are grown but not extensively.The climate of Kerala is best suited to this tree in India and Keralites need this tree for various purposes in every day life.All families in Kerala uses at least one coconut a day for use in their dishes.The recipe of most of the curries in Kerala contains coconut as a main ingredient. Usually the consumption of coconut starts from breakfast itself with common items like Idli or Dosa with coconut chutney and or 'Sambar'.The vegetable curry sambar prepared with bengal gram usually does not need coconut but in several parts of Kerala coconut is added in sambar also.The majority of families use coconut oil for cooking and frying even though several types and brands of other oils are available in the market.The Keralites prefer the taste of coconut and coconut oil rather than any other substitute.
The tender coconut is available in important towns and cities of India as a refreshing drink.The tender coconut contains more than 500ml sweet water in it which gives a carbonated drink feeling. The tender coconuts are called 'karikku' in Kerala.It is a natural energy drink which can be given to patients also.The flesh of tender coconut is very tasty and soft which contains much more protein than any other fruit.In Tamil Nadu coconut is called as 'Thenka' and in Kerala it is known as 'Thenga' both words means 'Honey fruit'.The energy giving sweet coconut water gave this fruit the name as "Honey Fruit'.The coconut tree is called 'thengu'.Usually the life of a coconut tree is up to 70 years and fruit bearing starts around 10 years but some dwarf varieties are available which gives yield from 3rd year and will live up to 30-35 years only.An yellowish orange color variety is there known as 'gowri gathram' of which the bunches of coconuts are used for decoration purposes in marriage ceremony,festivals etc.
When the coconut ripens the flesh becomes hard and the quantity of water in the coconut then will be not more than 250ml and it becomes less sweeter.The ripe coconut is used in dishes.The scraped coconut when pressed will give coconut milk which is used in making of certain sweets and ambrosia.The coconut milk if boiled becomes virgin coconut oil which has some medicinal properties.The dried coconut flesh is called 'copra' and coconut oil is extracted from it.The residue which we get after extracting oil is called 'coconut cake' which is used in cattle feeds.The kennel of coconut is used as fuel and for making charcoal.The wood of coconut also has varied uses and can be used for even making furniture.From the husk of coconut coir,mats,brushes,mattresses etc are made.The stiff mid-ribs of the leaves are tied together to make brooms and such kind of brooms are commonly used in Kerala.
Coconut oil is also used as hair oil and for massaging the body.It has industrial usage also and widely used for making soaps,cosmetics,lubricants,Ayurvedic medical preparations etc.Toddy is also made from coconut tree which can be converted to vinegar and alcohol.
In olden days woven coconut leaves were used to thatch the roofs of many small buildings but now a days such uses are restricted to temporary 'Pandal', 'shed' etc.
There are several religious uses for coconut,coconut leaves and coconut flowers.
For pooja rituals in temples coconut is commonly used in all parts of India as an auspicious item.In Kerala,Tamil Nadu etc Coconut is thrown and broken on a stone which is meant for that purpose in temples to remove our obstacles as a belief.
For several ceremonies like marriage coconut flower is inserted to a measuring barrel 'Para' filled with paddy, which is then known as 'Nirapara' and is displayed.The tender coconut leaves which are yellow in color are used for decoration purposes during festivals and in temples also.
The pilgrims of 'Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple' in Kerala where millions of devotees arrive every year from several states of India carries 'Ney Thenga' which is coconut filled with ghee to submit there.Each and every pilgrim will be carrying at least one 'Ney Thenga' with them as a custom and tradition for unction of the deity.
It is believed that the name of Kerala is derived from coconut.In Sanskrit 'Keram' means coconut and 'Alam' means place or 'Kingdom'.So Keralam means
Place of Coconuts or Kingdom of coconuts.Some historians say that up to the 12th century A.D, Kerala was ruled by eminent 'Chera Dynasty' and so 'Cheralam' became Keralam.But the first argument that Keram+Alam became Keralam is widely accepted.The official tree of Kerala is obviously 'Coconut Tree'.