The coco de mer is a type of palm tree that grows in the Seychelles, on the islands of Curieuse and Praslin. The tall, slender tree is renowned for its massive seeds which are the largest in the world and closely resemble human buttocks.
If you’ve ever wondered what the coco de mer tastes like, then keep reading. We'll take a look at its flavor, texture, and some handy facts.
What do coco de mers taste like?
A coco de mer has a mildly sweet, earthy taste that has a subtle citrus undertone. It is compared to a range of flavors including mango, banana, and some say it reminds them of breast milk. When fully developed, its texture is a little like a fancy version of coconut flesh. The immature nut has a softer texture, more like Turkish delight.
The coco de mer is unlike a coconut that has one lobe with meat surrounding a hollow, milk-filled inside; instead, it has two lobes and is completely filled with flesh. The nuts take seven years to develop so the shell is so thick that only a saw will open it - cracking it on a rock is impossible.
Can I eat a coco de mer?
Although the coco de mer is edible, it is a highly protected species that cannot be picked and eaten. Every female tree has seven branches with seven fruit, all of which get tagged by local authorities. This includes palms that are growing on private land.
The fruit is protected and those breaking the law by picking the nuts or buying them from locals will face severe fines or imprisonment. This means that getting the opportunity to eat a coco de mer is almost impossible. We strongly advise against visiting the Seychelles to eat one.
The coco de mer seed can be found for sale in government-approved stores within the Seychelles. It is important to ensure that you buy from an officially licensed outlet or you could get into hot water when leaving the country.
- The seed is sold without any meat inside and can be used as an eye-catching ornament.
- In the past, the coco de mer was used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, or as a flavor enhancer in soups.
- Many islanders would use the robust outer shell to make musical instruments and bowls.
Fast facts about the coco de mer
- The coco de mer is also known as the Lodoicea, sea coconut, and double coconut. Its botanical name is Lodoicea maldivica and is part of the palm family (Arecaceae), related to the coconut.
- The palms are extremely rare and only grow naturally in an archipelago off East Africa and the islands of the Seychelles. Forest fires, poachers, and invasive species are all a "high threat" according to the IUCN.
- Traditionally, the seeds could be eaten, traded, or given as gifts but recently the government has cracked down on the use of them. Even if no money is exchanged, they cannot be gifted or traded.
- Praslin held a culinary and arts festival in 2014, making coco de mer the hero ingredient in bread, puddings, ice cream, and other tasty treats. Since then, the festival has not repeated these food items as part of the celebrations.
- The seed weighs roughly as much as three bowling balls; it is officially the largest variety in the world. It is so heavy that when falling into the sea, they sink to the bottom. As time passes, the insides decompose and the outer shell floats to the surface. Fishermen used to think they grew on the bottom of the ocean.
- An Archaic botanical name for the plant was Lodoicea callipyge which means “beautiful buttocks” in Greek.
- The canopy of the palm tree has fronds spanning almost five meters outwards.
The coco de mer has become more popular and sought after over the years as it has become rarer. While hard work is being put in by the authorities to maintain the species and grow stock numbers, factors like bushfires and their slow growth rate have not helped.
Scarcity has resulted in strict conditions surrounding these fruits and getting a taste of one is practically impossible. As the plight of these palm trees becomes more widely understood, hopefully, more money can be invested into their survival.
In the meantime, if you want to know what a coco de mer tastes like then you'll have to rely on websites like this one. Unfortunately, we aren't able to personally test one in the kitchen to discover its culinary uses.
Have you ever met someone that tasted a coco de mer before? Please let us know in the comments below what they thought about its taste.