The tree of life: Exploring coconut products for every tree part

Green coconut fruit (Utsman Media/Unsplash)


The Philippines’ tropical climate provides the perfect nurturing ground for the coconut tree. With favorable climatic conditions and vast coconut plantations, the Philippines has emerged as a leading global producer of coconuts and coconut-based products. Regions such as Bicol, Western Visayas, and Southern Mindanao are known to be the top producers of coconut in the country.

The coconut tree is often referred to as the “tree of life” because it provides an array of resources from its roots to its fruits. Here are the diverse products derived from each part of the coconut tree.

Coconut water

Buko juice is a refreshing and popular drink made from coconut water. Buko juice production involves the process of extracting coconut water, which is then enjoyed as a thirst-quenching beverage. From street vendors to large-scale commercial production, buko juice has become a staple in Filipino cuisine and is known for its hydrating quality.

Coconut wine can be produced by fermenting coconut water. After the coconut water is collected, it is combined with sugar to encourage fermentation. The mixture is left to ferment, allowing natural yeasts to convert the sugars into alcohol over a specific period.

Coconut meat or flesh

Coconut flour has gained popularity as a gluten-free and high-fiber alternative to traditional wheat flour. It is obtained by drying and grinding the finely grated coconut flesh. This versatile ingredient is not only used in baking, such as for making cakes and bread, but also finds its way into various recipes for pancakes, waffles, and other treats. The growing demand for healthier options has propelled the use of coconut flour in both home kitchens and commercial baking.

Buko pie, a beloved Filipino dessert, showcases the coconut flesh’s creamy texture and sweet flavor. The filling is made by combining tender coconut meat with condensed milk, creating a delectable treat often encased in a flaky crust. Similarly, latik, a traditional topping made from coconut cream and sugar, adds a delightful crunch and caramel-like taste to various Filipino desserts.

Animal feed. In the Philippines, coconut flesh is used as a component in animal feeds, providing a source of nutrition for livestock and poultry. Its natural richness in fats and nutrients makes it an ideal addition to feed formulations, supporting the health and growth of animals.

Copra is the dried meat of coconut, which can be processed to extract coconut oil. This process involves carefully drying the coconut flesh, either by sun-drying or using mechanical dryers. The dried copra serves as the primary raw material for extracting coconut oil, which is widely used in cooking, cosmetics, and industrial applications.

Coconut heart

In Filipino cuisine, the coconut heart or ubod is used for its crunchy texture and gentle flavor. It is cooked in dishes like “ginataang ubod,” a creamy blend of coconut heart, coconut milk, and mixed vegetables. Another dish is “ubod lumpia,” where sauteed coconut heart and other ingredients are wrapped in spring rolls.

Getting the coconut heart involves taking out the young shoot from the core of the coconut tree. When the heart is taken, the tree can’t grow a new shoot, and sadly, it won’t survive. So, it is only collected when the coconut tree falls, usually because of natural causes like typhoons.


Coconut fiber is extracted from the husk’s fibrous outer layer and is valued for its strength and durability. It is used to create coir ropes. In the Philippines, these ropes are often used as riprap. Coir riprap is an erosion control method where coconut fibers are used to create a protective barrier against the impact of water on shorelines, riverbanks, slopes, and other vulnerable areas to prevent soil erosion.  Coconut fiber is also utilized in making bed mattresses and upholstery.

Coconut peat, also known as coir dust, is the dust-like material left behind after the fiber extraction process. This organic matter is a popular choice for planting due to its moisture retention, aeration, and nutrient-holding capacity.


Coconut shell charcoal is crafted through a process known as carbonization. In this method, coconut shells are heated in an environment with limited oxygen, causing them to decompose and transform into charcoal. The resulting charcoal is prized for its high carbon content, making it an effective fuel source for cooking and heating purposes both in households and industries. Its steady and long-lasting burn makes it an efficient fuel option, emitting less smoke and producing more heat compared to traditional firewood.

Coconut briquettes are produced by compressing coconut shell charcoal into convenient and compact forms, suitable for use as cooking fuel. This innovative approach not only reduces waste but also addresses the pressing issue of deforestation and the environmental impact of traditional charcoal production.


Coconut wine, locally called tuba in the Visayas region and lambanog in Luzon, is from the sap or nectar extracted from the coconut inflorescence or flower after undergoing fermentation and distillation.

Coconut sugar is also derived from the inflorescence of the coconut tree. Unlike in producing wine, the sap is collected immediately to avoid fermentation. To produce coconut sugar, the collected sap is boiled to remove the water, leaving only the sugar content.


Coconut lumber is extracted from the inner core of the tree and is used in the construction of traditional houses and furniture. The process involves treating the coconut trunk with preservatives to create durable lumber that can withstand the test of time and weather conditions.


Brooms are created by extracting the midrib part of the coconut leaves to form the bristles of a broom. The leaves can also be woven into baskets, traditionally used as storage for agricultural produce.


Beyond ecological functions of preventing soil erosion, coconut is used in traditional medicine. Decoctions made from coconut roots have been used to alleviate fever, diarrhea, and urinary issues.

The coconut tree exemplifies exceptional versatility, with its different components yielding a wide variety of products. This versatility has driven the coconut into a highly lucrative and commercially viable crop within the country.

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