Vietnamese Coconuts 101

Why the many varietys in Ben Tre are revered around the world.

Coconut trees are one of the most planted species in Vietnam. They have appeared in the suburbs, countryside and on the coast since before anyone can remember and offer many benefits. Coconut water is used as a cooling drink or to poach meat, coconut milk used to make sweet soup, coconut oil is used for hair care, skin care, the wood, shell, and cotton stalks are used for handicrafts. Coconut leaf stalks are used to weave baskets and coir is used to make carpets. Coconut has high economic value and is one of the key exports in the Mekong Delta, and Vietnam in general.

Figure 1 + 2: Coconut trees are grown mainly in the western region of Vietnam. Photo: Wikipedia
Figure 1 + 2: Coconut trees are grown mainly in the western region of Vietnam. Photo: Wikipedia

Coconut trees can be grown anywhere in Vietnam, but the most concentrated area is Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta. For a long time, Ben Tre has been known as “coconut land” or the “coconut capital” with an area of ​​more than 72,000 hectares of 30 diverse types of coconut in the districts and communes. Every year, Ben Tre produces more than 612 million coconuts. It is home to Hung Phong,  specializes in coco basket weaving, An Thanh, a coir thread craft village, and Phuoc Long a handicraft village.

Popular coconuts

Vietnam has about 40 types. They are divided into groups including dwarf coconuts, tall coconuts and hybrid coconuts.

Coconut water varieties (Dwarf coconut)

These are early fruit and high yield. A bunch of coconuts will give a lot of fruit with sweet water and milky, white, fatty copra. Except for pineapple coconut they cost around 25,000 – 35,000 VND. The remaining varieties have market prices ranging from 10,000 to 22,000 VND  per fruit.

Green Siamese coconut is known as the most popular variety in the Mekong Delta region. Grown predominately in Ben Tre, it is in wide demand. The fruit is round, the skin thin with a light green color, and the bottom has a dark green halo. Green Siamese coconut bunches usually have more than 20 fruits. This variety has an average weight of 1.2 to 1.5 kg with a water volume of about 250 to 300ml and each tree produces a range from 140 to 150 per year.

Green Siamese coconut. Photo: caygiong.com

Siamese coconut: The color and size is the same as the Green Siamese coconut, but the fruit is pear-shaped and has a thick shell. It is suitable for export because of its ability to last during long distance transportation. The average weight of Siamese coconuts ranges from 1.2 to 1.5 kg per fruit, with the water volume ranging from 150 to 300 ml. Siamese coconuts are favored by farmers because their yield is from 120 to 150 fruits per tree  annually.

Siamese coconut. Photo: caygiong.com

Red Siamese coconut

is the second most popular variety in the Mekong Delta. The fruit is pear-shaped, with a thin, reddish-brown skin. It gives fruit all year round, especially from October to December. The average weight is about 0.9-1.2 kg per fruit with a water volume of 250 to 300 ml. They produce 80 to 130 fruits per tree annually.

Red Siamese coconut. Photo: aloduasap.com
Red Siamese coconut. Photo: aloduasap.com

Green Siamese coconut with pink flesh

This variety is green color, with a thin shell and round shape similar to the Green Siamese coconut, but the inner shell and part of the coconut flesh is pink. The flowers and young coconuts also have pink stalks, instead of white like other varieties. The average weight of the fruit is between 1.5-1.8 kg, with a water volume of 300 – 400 ml per fruit. The average yield is from 120 to 150 fruits per tree annually .

Green Siamese coconut with pink flesh. Photo: TikTok
Green Siamese coconut with pink flesh. Photo: TikTok

Tam Quan Coconut:

The shell has a thin and a luxurious light brown color. Although it does not produce a high yield, it has a high economic value thanks to its beautiful shape and color that is meaningful for feng shui and worship. Tam Quan coconuts are the favoured offering coconut at Tet with an average weight of 1.5 to 1.8 kg per fruit and a water volume of 250 – 280 ml. It yields 100 to 150 fruits per tree annually.

Tam Quan coconut. Photo: Tiki
Tam Quan coconut. Photo: Tiki

Pineapple Coconut:

This is a special type of coconut with a natural pandan flavor, imported from Thailand. Originally grown for its water, it has a distinctive aroma and the price is often double or triple the other varieties. It can also be used for oil. Average weight is 1 to 1.3 kg  per fruit with a water volume from 300 to 450 ml. It gives a high yield of around 200 fruits per tree annually.

 Pineapple coconut. Photo: Shopee
Pineapple coconut. Photo: Shopee

Coconuts for oil (Tall varieties)

Some types of coconuts contain brackish water. Despite the bad taste, these varieties have a soft, fatty, viscous copra and characteristic aroma. They are usually harvest for their oil. In addition to the Macapuno coconut, other varieties of oil-based coconuts have prices ranging from 35,000 to 60,000 VND per fruit.

Vietnamese Coconut:

The second most popular oil-based coconut variety in Vietnam has two types – the Green Vietnamese coconut and the Yellow Vietnamese coconut. The Vietnamese Coconut is a large fruit with three clear edges at the bottom, a large shell, lots of fiber and thick copra. The tree has a tall trunk, large root and longevity. It is suitable for processing products with high economic value such as coconut candy, desiccated shredded coconut, coconut milk, and coconut milk powder. The average weight of a Vietnamese coconut is about 1.6 to 2 kg. However, the yield is low, with only 70 to 80 fruits per tree annually.

Vietnamese coconut. Photo: Seedlings World
Vietnamese coconut. Photo: Seedlings World

Strawberry Coconut:

Along with the Vietnamese coconut, the Strawberry coconut is popular and has two 2types – the Green Strawberry and Yellow Strawberry varieties. The coconut strawberry is large with a thin shell, round shape and medium to thick copra.  Its oil content is slightly less than the Vietnamese coconut. The average weight of is 1.6 to 1.8 kg per fruit. It ranges from 80 to 100 fruits per tree annually.

Strawberry coconut. Photo: aloduasap.com

Macapuno Coconut (also known as condensed coconut or creamy coconut) is a specialty variety from the Cau Ke district (Tra Vinh).

Macapuno Coconut. Photo: Bao Chau coconut
Macapuno Coconut. Photo: Bao Chau coconut

It is one of the highest priced coconuts, costing around 20 times more than ordinary the Siamese coconut. It rangwa from 200,000 to 400,000 VND per fruit. This variety has a very thick, soft, viscous copra with a characteristic aroma and little or no water. It has a low yield and the average weight is from 1.2 to 1.5 kg per fruit. Only f40 to 80 fruit are produced from each tree annually. It is impossible to distinguish between Macapuno coconut trees and regular coconut trees. The only method to distinguish them is by shaking the fruit when it begins to dry.

Coconut export industry in Vietnam

Today, it is not only an industrial tree that produces a huge amount of oil for the country, but other products include canned fresh coconut water, canned coconut milk, refined and virgin coconut oil, and a beauty mask for women.

Vietnam exports 200 coconut products to around 90 countries and territories, including Canada, Japan, China, USA, Canada, Korea, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Thailand, and Australia. They include dried shredded coconut copra, coconut milk, canned coconut water, coconut candy, coconut jelly, activated carbon, coconut coir thread, coconut oil, coconut mask, and canned coconut milk. Ben Tre is Vietnam’s leading province exporting coconut and coconut products.

The province currently has 525 businesses invested in the coconut industry, with a total capital of about 20,500 billion VND. Canned coconut water is still one of the leading products in the export industry, since it capitalizes on a beverage trend of around the world.

Vietnamese coconuts have many advantages over coconuts in other countries. The proportion of copra in Vietnam accounts for 35 per cent while the world average is 30 per cent. Coconut water accounts for 27 per cent while the world average is 22 per cent. Vietnamese coconuts are a prominent export item on the world market and due to these advantages will likely continue to stay in the lead spot.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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