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King coconuts grow at the tops of 20 to 30-meter-tall palm trees, which are a bit shorter than other coconut palm varieties. They grow in clusters of up to 20 nuts, growing from smaller branches on a large stalk. King coconuts have an elongated oval shape, much like a football, with a pointed end opposite of the stem. The skin has a bright orange hue, and it may have the occasional dark mark or abrasion. King coconuts measure from 20 to 30 centimeters in length. They are harvested at around 7 to 8 months of maturity, which is about twice the age of a typical, young green coconut. The sweet and flavorful liquid within the nut contains electrolytes and minerals that mirror the needs of the human body. The liquid is hydrating, refreshing and has a cooling effect on the body.
King coconuts are available year-round.
King coconuts are a southeast Asian variety of tree nut, botanically known as Cocos nucifera var. aurantiaca. They stand apart from other coconuts with their orange colored skin and football-like shape. Although they are not as sweet as other varieties, they are the preferred coconut in the South Asian tropics, where they earned the name “King” of the coconuts. In the local Sinhalese, they are called Thambili. The palm fruits have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Unlike the young green coconut, King coconuts are only used for the liquid within and they have no husk. Sometimes they are referred to as ‘coconuts for drinking’. They are harvested with extreme care, by hand and lowered from the tall palm trees using ropes and pulleys to avoid damaging the precious fruits.
King coconuts are a rich source of B-complex vitamins, amino acids, and electrolytes, which are minerals like potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, chloride and phosphate. The liquid within the King coconuts has more magnesium and calcium than an orange, and more potassium than a banana. It will naturally replenish the body’s loss of electrolytes by sweating during exercise or any other type of exertion. This helps prevent dehydration and fatigue. King coconuts contain bioactive enzymes which aid in digestion and help with the body’s metabolism. Studies have found the water has antioxidant properties. The liquid contains trace amounts of natural sucrose, fructose and glucose. Heating or any type of temperature pasteurization can reduce the nutritional benefits of King coconut water.
King coconuts are used primarily for their “milk” or the liquid contained within its rind. To open a King coconut, cut the stem end with a sharp knife and cut around the stem end, at an angle, creating a beveled edge. Cut (or hack) across the white layer of pith until the layer is thin enough to poke a hole into for extracting the liquid. Once the liquid has been removed, the inside of the rind has a soft, somewhat gelatinous layer that can be eaten. King coconut water is used to re-hydrate, refresh and is best when drunk straight from the coconut. It can be added to smoothies or fruit juices. Store uncut King coconuts on the counter until ready to use. King coconut water can be kept for up to three days in the refrigerator.
In Sri Lanka, clusters of King coconuts can be found along roadsides, on the backs of bicycles, mopeds and trucks, and are often sold by street vendors. Aside from their status as the beverage of choice on the island, Ayurvedic practitioners have used King coconuts medicinally for thousands of years. The liquid is used to treat urinary tract and kidney troubles and is recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers. Despite being grown in the hot, humid tropics, the water within the King coconut is often prescribed for its cooling effects. The water is also given to infants for intestinal troubles and is applied topically on babies with prickly heat.
King Coconuts are indigenous to Sri Lanka, the small island that sits just off the southern tip of India. This is where most King Coconuts are grown; however, they can be found growing on other islands in Indonesia. In Sri Lanka, the coconuts grow without any human intervention and are often found in the wild. They are primarily found in an area called the “Coconut triangle” which stretches between three cities in the island country. King coconut water production is considered to be more sustainable than that of the young green coconuts, which are harvested before the flesh and husk is developed enough for use. Since 2015, various companies from Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have been selling King coconut water and its use has increased in other areas of the globe. King coconuts are generally only available in Sri Lanka and in some areas of Indonesia.