Coconut: Is It A nut?

A pineapple isn’t an apple nor is a cauliflower a flower; but when it comes to allergies, if you are like me (and I think you are) anytime "nut" is in a name your antennae go up.

Coconut is neither coco nor nut (discuss). Seriously, coconut is a drupe.

From wikipedia: In botany, a drupe is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp, or skin; and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounds a shell (the pit or stone) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. These fruits develop from a single carpel, and mostly from flowers with superior ovaries. The definitive characteristic of a drupe is that the hard, lignified stone (or pit) is derived from the ovary wall of the flower.

Some flowering plants that produce drupes are coffee, jujube, mango, olive, most palms (including date, coconut and oil palms), pistachio and all members of the genus Prunus, including the almond (in which the mesocarp is somewhat leathery), apricot, cherry, damson, nectarine, peach, and plum.

So, NOT a tree-nut genetically speaking. However, few "nuts" in the tree-nut allergy world are actually nuts, many are in fact drupes or seeds. (The FDA has categorized coconut as a tree-nut--look at section 25 here).

Since, historically I have NOT been allergic to coconut, I thought it was time I re-tried some.

I’m always looking to add foods to my diet, to expand it. I try to add a new thing a week. I know, wild and crazy but it’s vital not to feel restricted even when one is, well, restricted. More importantly, the world of food is huge and there are lots of safe foods out there for this Allergic Girl to try [in a very safe way of course--see below].

Sometimes it’s a new company, like Home Free Treats, I’m going to try them soon and I'm looking forward!

Or a new dish at a safe Allergic Girl approved restaurant: I tried the braised pork at Shorty’s .32 on Monday, sweet and sour, a simple preparation, with only a few ingredients. All was OK for this AG.

In some cases it’s a reintroduction of a food I haven’t had in many years. I’ve done that recently with coconut and woo hoo, it's a keeper!

Trying new foods side note: I always try something new with a safe person present; not on a Sunday when hospital rooms don't have their A-teams on or on a Saturday night which are typically busy with Saturday night shenanigans. I try a tiny bit once. Then if no reaction the next day or so I will try a little more. Slow and steady with this one. I only do this process with foods that I am 99% certain will NOT cause an allergic reaction i.e. foods I've had before without reaction but not in many years, like coconut.

For anything else: a food challenge at your allergists office is the only way to go.


I was just reading your side bar and that line "You mean your mouth doesn't hurt when you eat pineapple?" caught my eye. LOL, I guess I discovered why my mouth hurts after some fruit salads.

You would think I would have realized that long ago -- I'm allergic to nuts and react strongly to the histadone in certain fishes and old cheese, two classes of antibiotics, & codeine. My 15 yo is allergic to tree nuts, mangoes, fish/shellfish, basil, oregano & beef.
Thank you for sharing this. I wondered because I have heard yes it is a tree nut and no. We have not tried it with my two year old, because of the conflict. He is allergic to every tree nut and peanuts and a few other things.

Thanks again.
FoodAllergyMom said…
Well, now that someone else has commented on you sidebar I have to because it's been bugging me for a while. I was showing it to my daughter who's mouth itches every time she eats bananas or cantaloupe (of course she loves them so much she eats them anyway) because I thought it would be nice for her to know she's not alone. The I saw the pineapple thing. As far as I know everyones mouth DOES hurt after eating pineapple Isn't it from the acid? Anyway, that's not even why I was commenting ( I got sidetracked...sorry), I just wanted to say that when my other daughter was tested for food allergies and the lab gave us a printout of the results all of the foods were catagorized and coconut was listed under nuts. I always thought that was strange because I didn't think they were nuts either.
Unknown said…
I am actually one of the only people I know of that is highly allergic to coconut! I actually had a funny accident last Oct. at my cousin's wedding reception. Unbeknownst to me, I had dipped what I thought was a creme puff under the chocolate fountain, yet it was a coconut covered marshmallow. I stuck the whole thing in my mouth, quickly chewed and swallowed before I realized what I had just done!!! I was rushing around trying to find a bathroom because I have to drink large amounts of water so that my throat will not swell shut...I thought I had found the bathrooms but wasn't sure which door to use since one said "PA" and the other, "MA". I thought it was a trick, or in another language. {remember, i was in panick mode anyway!} finally i decided to take the closest door, "PA" Grandpa stopped me right before and yanked me to the "MA" door. It never occured to me what I was reading...and that I was at a retirement center. ;)

~morgan the blog...thanx for your understanding of people with many food allergies. =)
Unknown said…
I always questioned myself on nutmeg. I knew it wasn't a nut, but I felt compelled to look it up (okay, a few times) before using it in something I would serve my nut allergic son. We need to change the names of some of these food items. Thanks for a great blog!

Unknown said…
Have you ever had a young coconut? They are pretty odd looking, they are in a white husk that's pointed at the top. You can find them at Whole Foods. If you can tolerate it, you should give them a try. I eat a very limited diet, and young cocos are pretty much my favorite food. I just drink the water inside, and then scoop the insides out with a spoon. So good!

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