Such disparate characters as an English earl, an American president, Imelda Marcus, a celebrated German nudist, Captain Bligh of the Bounty, and a billion Hindus feature in this fascinating history of the coconut. The coconut has long been the unseen player in the endeavours of industrialists and bomb makers, physicians and silversmiths, smugglers and snake charmers. The millions of gas masks produced in readiness for World War II had filters packed with coconut charcoal; 16th-century European craftsmen gilded coconuts with silver and gold; early seafarers were sustained its fresh water and nutritious flesh, using the husk to make the rope for the ships' rigging and more of it to arrest the inevitable leaks in the ships' hulls. Today, the world and his visitors wipe their feet on coir matting and coconut-based products line the shelves of supermarkets and health food shops. This is the remarkable history of the most widely used plant nature has conceived.
Robin Laurance has been writing as a freelance journalist for 35 years, contributing articles to The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Times among other magazines. During 18 months of research he has become a minor expert on the coconut. He has previously written Portrait of Islam and Just What I Always Wanted (Quercus), a light-hearted look at present-giving through 365 unusual birthday exchanges during the past 300 years.
"A bounty of a book"
– Sir Peter Stothard, Former Editor of The Times and The Times Literary Supplement