Photo credit Heritage Library Division, Winer Collection


Authored by: Anna Richardson-Thomas


Coconut is known by different names, the Coco, Cocos nucifera, coconut palm and the Coconut tree.  Its fruit is also known as the coconut.

In Trinidad, deliberate cultivation is said to have started in Mayaro by Phillipe Alphonse. Mr. Alphonse made a decision “every week-end” to “ride through Mayaro trace and plant coconuts” (Anthony 170). Today the descendants of these can still be seen along the Manzanilla Mayaro Road known as the Coal. It creates a scenic route that is an attraction for local and foreign travellers.

coconuts-grown-at-ce...Since then Trinidad has developed various coconut estates. The first was in Mayaro around the 1900’s, then the Cedros estate and Constance estates. The Constance coconut estate is thought to be Trinidad’s largest coconut estate in Icacos.

















[1951 Cedros coconut tree]       

Photo credit Heritage Library, Winer Collection                                                                                           


At Pigeon Point, Tobago, coconut trees of various sizes can be seen on both sides of the road swaying to the breeze. This becomes a breath-taking view as you drive past. It is thought that the establishment of the earliest coconut estate in Tobago was in Woodland, around the late 1800’s.


Today, diseases such as the Red Ring (Rhadinaphelenchus cocophilus) have severely impacted coconut production, although the industry lives on through the manufacturing of local products. This is particularly important since coconut is deeply connected to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, with its by products being used in religious rituals, local cuisine, medicine and craft/recreational and beauty


Religious aspect - Coconut

coconut-crackingThe coconut is used by the Orisha and Hindus in various rituals. Among the Orisha community of the Yoruba people, the coconut is called agbon. (Lewis 216).

In the Hindu religion coconuts are used in puja ceremonies. At Waterloo, in the Temple in the Sea a historic religious site, coconut shells can be seen water upon the conclusion of prayers.









“Coconut oil fuelled deya lamps” are used for Divali religious celebrations and coconut is used for Devi yagnas murti image of Ganesh for Ganesh jyanti yagnas (Vertovec 212).


Products aspect - Dry Coconut

dry-coconuts-on-esta...Copra, oil, milk, cream, and soap from the dry coconuts are some of the products that are derived from the local manufacture of coconuts.












Photo credit Heritage Library, Winer Collection


Craft/Recreational aspect - The Coconut palm

coconut-palms-trinid...The leaves of the coconut palm have varying uses such as basket weaving, roof coverings like huts, making of cocoyea broomss and kites etc.

“The outer layer is used for basket weaving. The palmate leaves of Sabal (Carat) are used as thatch.” (Comeau 5) The cocoyea broom and kites are made from the “frond” of the coconut palm. (Winer 229).
















Right, Photo credit Heritage Library, Winer Collection


Cuisine aspect - coconut/dry coconut


Photo credit Heritage Library, Winer Collection


The method of Coconut vending remains the sane today as in years gone by. The coconut vendor with a machete, cuts the green nut at the “guzzle” for the customer to drink the water directly from the green nut. The main differences in this era, is that draft animals are no longer are used to pull the coconut cart.

Today a popular place where you can still see a coconut vendor is “around the Queens Park Savannah” opposite Queens Royal College, Port-of-Spain. Although there is an increase in the automation of bottled coconut water, this traditional method of buying coconut water, is still the most popular.


Coconut Water Cocktails (DeWitt and Mary 42)

2 ounces Scotch, rum, or gin

5 or 6 ice cubes

Water from Immature coconuts (s)


Many dishes have as a major ingredient dried coconut or coconut milk. Deserts made from coconut include toolum, sugar canes, coconut drops, sweet bread, and (cassava or sweet potato) pone.  Those that include coconut milk include coconut-rice pudding; coconut stuffed cush-cush and coconut cream pie.


Medicinal aspect

The meat from the coconut has many medicinal properties especially when it is converted to coconut oil. In African circles (Yoruba etc.), it is considered to be the “herbs of Obatala”, the God of purity. Coconut is used “to purify, strengthen and cool the head” (St. John 8). See excerpt in the The Multi-cultural cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean: Naparima Girls' High School cookbook.on how to extract coconut oil (Naparima Girls' High School 254)


Coconut oil

1.     Extract coconut milk using as little hot water as possible

2.     Leave milk to stand overnight, cream will rise to the top


To discover more on Trinidad and Tobago’s rich history,

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Anthony, Michael. Towns and Villages of Trinidad and Tobago. Circle Press, 1988.

Besson, Gerard A. Book of Trinidad. Paria Pub. Co., 1992


Bissessarsingh, Angelo. A walk back in time: snapshots of the history of Trinidad &   Tobago. Queen Bishop Publishing, 2015.

De Verteuil, Anthony. Great estates of Trinidad. Print Master (W.I.) Limited, 2000.


Comeau, Paul L. The Palm book of Trinidad and Tobago including the Lesser Antilles. International Palm Society, 2003.

DeWitt, Dave and Mary Jane Wilan. Callaloo, Calypso & Carnival: the cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago. Crossing Press,1993.

Ferreira, Jo-Anne S. The Portuguese of Trinidad and Tobago: Portrait of an Ethnic Minority. The University of the West Indies, 1994

Kenefick, Martyn. Restall, Robin L. Birds of Trinidad & Tobago. Christopher Helm, 2011.

Lewis, Maureen Warner. Trinidad Yoruba: From Mother Tongue to Memory, University of the West Indies Press ;

Murrell, Nathaniel Samuel. Afro-Caribbean religions : an introduction to their historical, cultural, and sacred traditions. Temple University Press, 2010.

Naparima Girls' High School. The Multi-cultural cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean : Naparima Girls' High School cookbook. Naparima Girls' High School, 2002.

Polly Thomas. The Rough Guide to Trinidad and Tobago. Rough Guides, 2018.

Seaforth, C. E and Tricia Tikasingh. Caribbean herbs and nutritional supplements. University of Trinidad and Tobago, 2007.

St. John. Lystra. Remedies and recipes of my ancestry. Laser Graphics Marketing, 2003.

Vertovec, Steven. Hindu Trinidad: Religion, Ethnicity and Socio-economic Change. Macmillan Caribbean, 1992.

Winer, Lise. Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: on historical principles. University Press, 2009.


Digital sources:

Charan, Richard. The Timeless Cocal. Sunday Express Newspaper, 13 June 2021, Accessed 15 June 2021

Desilva, Radica. Cedros' rich history under threat Coconut estates being bulldozed for housing projects. Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 23 Mar 2021, Accessed 18 June 2021

Gerada. A. Besson. Arrival of the Coconut, 31 May, 2021, Accessed 17 June 2021

Fraser, Narissa. MP: Icacos full of potential for tourism, agriculture. Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Newspaper, 6 Nov 2020, Accessed

“Lethal Yellowing Coconuts.” Ministry of Agriculture Land & Fisheries, 2021, Accessed 18 June 2021

“Red Palm Weevil.” Ministry of Agriculture Land & Fisheries, 2021, Accessed 18 June 2021


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