Cocos nucifera is a large palm, growing up to 30 meters (98 ft) tall, with pinnate leaves 4–6 meters (13–20 ft) long, and pinnae 60–90 cm long; old leaves break away cleanly, leaving the trunk smooth. The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity. It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall (150 cm to 250 cm annually).
The coconut palm is grown throughout the tropics for decoration, as well as for its many culinary and nonculinary uses; virtually every part of the coconut palm can be used by humans in some manner and has significant economic value. The various parts of the coconut have a number of culinary uses. Coconut water contains sugar, dietary fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and provides an isotonic electrolyte balance. It is consumed as a refreshing drink throughout the humid tropics and is gaining popularity as a sports drink. Mature fruits have significantly less liquid than young immature coconuts, barring spoilage.
can be fermented to produce coconut vinegar. The seed provides oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine. The white, fleshy part of the seed, the coconut meat, is used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons. Desiccated coconut or coconut milk made from it is frequently added to curries and other savory dishes. Coconut flour has also been developed for use in baking, to combat malnutrition.
Coconut chips have been sold in the tourist regions of Hawaii and the Caribbean. Coconut butter is often used to describe solidified coconut oil but has also been adopted as a name by certain specialty products made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil. Dried coconut is also used as the filling for many candy bars.