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A young coconut is a coconut which is harvested before it is fully mature. Young coconuts are also known as green or tender coconuts, depending on regional preferences, and they are harvested both for their flesh and for the liquid inside, which is known as coconut juice or water. In the tropics, young coconuts are commonly available at markets and stores, and they are also available in urban areas in other regions of the world.
It is easy to identify a young coconut. These coconuts are green, rather than brown, with some specimens being mottled with darker color. The husk of the coconut is also thinner and less fully developed. When cut open, a young coconut has very tender coconut meat which may still be in a slightly gelatinous form, along with the nutrient-rich coconut water. Coconut water can be consumed plain or blended with other ingredients as a treat, and the meat of young coconuts is also eaten.
The liquid interior of the young coconut represents an early stage in the development of the fruit, in which the endosperm is still in a liquid form. Over time, the endosperm hardens, and the liquid is absorbed. Were the coconut to be left undisturbed, the endosperm would provide nutrition for the seed while it germinated and established itself.
The high nutritional value of the endosperm makes coconuts popular in many regions of the world. In the case of young coconuts, the coconut water is high in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals, which can make it a useful dietary supplement. The gelatinous coconut meat is also high in nutrients and easy to eat, making it a convenient source of nutrition. Pasteurized bottled and canned coconut water is available in some regions of the world, in addition to a fresh version. The flavor of young coconut products is more mild than that of mature coconuts, and it can acquire a slightly sweet or salty note in some regions of the world.
Young coconuts are much easier to crack open than mature coconuts, because they have not developed a thick husk. They can be cracked open with a cleaver, ideally over a container to catch the coconut juice. Some people prefer to bore a hole into the coconut, pouring the juice out or drinking it with a straw before cracking the coconut open to access the meat. Some stores sell young coconuts which have been prepared in this way for the convenience of consumers.