Tuesday, 8 July 2014


“Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred.” - Prophet Muhammad

The pomegranate is one of the most famous and celebrated fruits of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. Since ancient times, the many seeds of the fruit have symbolised hope, eternity, fertility and prosperity. Ancient Greeks used the tart, sharp-tasting juice of unripe pomegranates in the same way that we use lemon juice today. Since ancient times and right up to the present, Greeks have broken a pomegranate fruit on the threshold of shops, homes and offices on New Year’s day to ensure happiness and prosperity for the year ahead.

The pomegranate is the fruit of Punica granatum, a bush or small tree of Western Asia. The plant, which may attain 5 or 7 metres in height, has lance-shaped, bright-green leaves about 75 millimetres long and beautiful orange-red flowers, the petals of which are borne on a bright red, waxy calyx tube. The fruit is the size of a large orange, obscurely six-sided, with a smooth, leathery skin that ranges from brownish yellow to red; within, it is divided into several chambers containing many thin, transparent vesicles of reddish, juicy pulp, each surrounding an angular, elongated seed. The fruit is eaten fresh, and the juice is the source of grenadine syrup, used in flavourings and liqueurs.

Throughout the Orient, the pomegranate has since earliest times occupied a position of importance alongside the grape and the fig. According to the Bible, King Solomon possessed an orchard of pomegranates, and, when the children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness, sighed for the abandoned comforts of Egypt, the cooling pomegranates were remembered longingly. The Muslims held the fruit in high regard as it was praised in the Koran.

While the pomegranate is considered indigenous to Iran and neighbouring countries, its cultivation long ago encircled the Mediterranean and extended through the Arabian Peninsula, Afghanistan, and India. It is commonly cultivated in the Americas from the warmer parts of the United States to Chile.

The ancient Greek legend of Persephone (Latin = Proserpina) contains a poignant detail involving the pomegranate. Persephone was the daughter of Zeus, the chief god, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. Persephone was gathering flowers in the Vale of Nysa when she was seized by Hades, god of the Underworld, and taken to the nether regions. Upon learning of the abduction, her mother, Demeter, in her misery, became unconcerned with the harvest or the fruitfulness of the Earth, so that widespread famine ensued. Zeus then intervened, commanding Hades to release Persephone to her mother. Because Persephone had eaten four pomegranate seeds in the underworld, she could not be completely freed but had to remain one-third of the year with Hades, spending the other two-thirds with her mother. The story that Persephone spent four months of each year in the underworld was no doubt meant to account for the barren appearance of Greek fields in full summer (after harvest), before their revival in the autumn rains, when they are ploughed and sown.

Some trivia about pomegranates:
• The hand grenade is named after the pomegranate
• Grenada, the island nation off the coast of South America, was named after the pomegranate.
• The Spanish city Granada is named after the pomegranate.
• The Koran mentions pomegranates three times (6:99, 6:141, 55:068) - twice as examples of the good things God creates, once as a fruit found in the Garden of Paradise.
• In Iran eating the fruit is believed to give a long and healthy life
• The pomegranate was the personal emblem of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian I (1459-1519).
• Greeks commemorating their dead, make “Kollyva” as offerings that consist of boiled wheat, parsley, roast chick pea meal, mixed with icing sugar and decorated with pomegranate seeds.
• The Babylonians believed chewing pomegranate seeds before battle made them invincible
• Exodus chapter 28:33-34 directed that images of pomegranates be woven onto the borders of Hebrew priestly robes.
• 1 Kings chapter 7:13-22 describes pomegranates depicted in the temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem.
• Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 commandments of the Torah. For this and other reasons many Jews eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah.
• Pomegranate consumption has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE).
• Research suggests that pomegranate juice may be effective against prostate cancer.
• The pomegranate was sacred to the ancient Greek goddess Hera, protectress of the institution of marriage. Pomegranates are still broken in modern Greek weddings for good luck.
• Ancient Egyptian pharaohs had pomegranates buried with them in their tombs.

Recipes with pomegranates can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting. I will start giving my dad pomegranates for his health. :)