Pomegranates

13 Interesting Facts About Pomegranate

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A Fruit with a Rich History

The pomegranate has been revered through the ages for its beauty, flavor, and symbolic meaning. This iconic red fruit boasts a rich history spanning several millennia and cultures. Once wild fruits native to Iran and northern India, pomegranates were among the earliest domesticated crops in human civilization. Over the centuries, the seeds of this fertile fruit came to represent life, death, righteousness, fertility, and prosperity.

Beyond the captivating myths and legends, pomegranates have endured as a nourishing food and versatile plant. Today, over 500 cultivated varieties offer diversity in size, color, sweetness, and growing habits. Modern research continues to uncover unique health benefits within the ruby-red arils and potent antioxidants that provide a vibrant color.

This article explores 13 fascinating facts about the ancient yet timeless pomegranate. Learn about its place in history, symbolism, cultivation, traditional uses, emerging science, and cultural lore across the ages. Discover what makes this fruit such a jewel.

pomegranate
pomegranate

1. Pomegranates originated in Iran and northern India over 5,000 years ago

The first pomegranates grew wild in the region spanning modern-day Iran to northern India. They were one of the earliest fruits to be domesticated, with evidence of cultivation dating back to 3,000 BC in Bronze Age Iran.

2. The name “pomegranate” comes from Latin and means “apple with many seeds”

The Latin name for pomegranate is Punica granatum. “Punica” refers to the Phoenician city of Carthage where the Romans first encountered the fruit. “Granatum” comes from the Latin word granum meaning “grains” or “seeds”.

3. Pomegranates feature prominently in ancient mythology and symbolism

In Greek myth, the pomegranate represents life, death, and fertility. In Judaism and Christianity, pomegranates adorned the pillars of King Solomon’s temple, symbolizing righteousness. In Buddhism, the pomegranate represents fertility and the essence of favorable influences.

4. The vibrant red juice was used historically as a fabric dye

The deep red juice obtained from pomegranate arils contains high levels of tannins. This made it useful as a natural dye for fabrics across many ancient cultures.

5. Pomegranates can survive for over 200 years

Metal background with pomegranate berries and mint. Vintage style photo
Metal background with pomegranate berries and mint. Vintage style photo

The hardy pomegranate is a drought-tolerant plant that can live for over two centuries if the conditions are right. Some of the oldest producing pomegranate trees in Europe have been bearing fruit for over 200 years.

6. There are over 500 cultivars of pomegranate

While there is only one species of pomegranate, there are over 500 named cultivars. Popular varieties include Wonderful, Grenada, and Early Foothill, which vary in flavor, size, ripening time, and hardiness.

7. Pomegranates are high in nutrients and powerful antioxidants

The edible arils and juice provide vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. Pomegranates also contain beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

8. The arils and juice have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years

Across many ancient cultures, pomegranate arils and juice were believed to have medicinal properties. Traditional uses include treating intestinal worms, diarrhea, ulcers, sore throat, and inflammation.

9. Pomegranates may help fight viruses and bacteria

Modern research indicates that compounds found in pomegranates can inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and viruses. Extracts have shown antiviral effects against influenza and HIV.

10. Pomegranate juice has benefits for cardiovascular health

Studies suggest that drinking pomegranate juice daily can lower blood pressure, reduce arterial plaque, and improve blood flow to the heart in people at risk for cardiovascular disease.

11. Pomegranates contain high levels of punicalagins, extremely potent antioxidants

Punicalagins are unique pomegranate compounds responsible for over 50% of the fruit’s exceptional antioxidant capacity. These are absorbed into the bloodstream and may help reduce inflammation in the whole body.

12. Many parts of the pomegranate can be used, not just the arils

The peel makes a colorful garnish and the dried peel is used in some natural remedies. The flowers can make a tea. The juice and seeds are used to make grenadine syrup. Even the leaves and bark have been used medicinally.

13. In some cultures, pomegranates represent prosperity and ambition

In China and Japan, the pomegranate symbolizes prosperity, status, ambition, and a blessed future. It is a popular wedding gift as a wish for fertility and luck. Breaking open a pomegranate on New Year’s is thought to bring good fortune in the coming year.

Cracked pomegranate. Ripe Pomegranates Background
Cracked pomegranate. Ripe Pomegranates Background

Frequently Asked Questions About Pomegranates

Where do pomegranates grow best?

Pomegranates thrive in regions with hot, dry summers and cool winters. They can tolerate some frost but perform best with temperatures over 20°F. Popular growing areas include the Mediterranean region, Middle East, Central Asia, and drier parts of North and South America.

What’s the best way to eat a fresh pomegranate?

Cut off the crown, score the skin into quarters, and submerge in a bowl of water. Separate the arils from the pith under water – they will sink while the pith floats. Drain and enjoy the arils fresh, seeded into dishes, or frozen for later use.

Is pomegranate juice healthier than eating the arils?

Fresh pomegranate arils provide fiber and seed nutrients that the juice does not. But the juice contains most of the vitamins and antioxidant polyphenols. For a balanced intake, enjoy both arils and juice. Opt for 100% pomegranate juice with no added sugars.

How do you pick a ripe pomegranate at the store?

Choose fruits that feel heavy for their size with smooth, bright skin. Pomegranates do not continue ripening once picked. Avoid fruit with cracks, soft spots, or mildew which indicate overripeness.

Can you grow pomegranate trees at home?

Yes! Pomegranate trees are fairly easy to grow in zones 7-10. Producing fruit may take 3-5 years but the decorative foliage and flowers make them beautiful landscape plants regardless. They prefer full sun and good drainage.


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