The Spanish called this nut Cocos which means "monkey face" because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resemble the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means "nut-bearing."
Coconuts do not have a long shelf life, especially after the outer husks have been removed. When purchasing a coconut choose one that is still heavy with juice. Shake it to make sure there is plenty of juice inside. Check the eyes, they shouldn't look dark or moldy. Choose a rich brown shell if you wish to press fresh milk. Inside, the thick flesh should be a pure white color; yellow flesh means rancidity. A lighter brown shell means a younger nut with soft meat that is delicious as a snack, or shredded to use in recipes. Milk pressed from these coconuts may be less creamy but its flavor can be fresher and tastier.
To open a coconut, hold over a bowl in one hand with the tip on one end and the eyes on the other. Whack the coconut with the back of the cleaver a few times all around the center until it cracks open cleanly into two nearly equal halves. Make sure you use the blunt side of the cleaver. Catch he juice in the bowl as it drains from the cracks.
Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content.