Myths & Legends

Pomegranates – History & Legend
Ah, the pomegranate – what an extraordinary gift of nature. How does one introduce and pay homage to this noble fruit, so resplendent in legend and lore?

Our many-seeded apple, or punica granatum by its official Latin name, originated in Persia and was cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region. Eventually it made its way to Africa, India, the Near East, southern Europe and America – brought by the Spanish in the 18th century. It is grown throughout the world and thrives in a climate of mild temperature and low humidity.

Pomegranates have been around forever. The Old Testament mentions them often – as a symbol of ornament on the robes of the high priests, as a representation of love – “Let us go early to the vineyards… and if the pomegranates are in bloom…there I will give you my love” (Song of Songs 7:12). It is one of the seven species of ancient Israel, “A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8). There is even speculation that the fruit leading to the banishment from the Garden of Eden was not an apple, but rather a pomegranate!

The allure of the pomegranate has captivated cultures throughout history. King Tut as buried with pomegranates to insure his safe passage to the next world. The Greeks attributed the arrival of winter to a long-winded tale about Persephone and her inability to resist the luscious pomegranate. 

The Chinese offer wedding gifts with images of pomegranates to promote a fruitful union. Understandably the fruit’s full round shape and multitude of seeds represents fertility and bounty. Jews honor the fruit by using it in the festive meals associated with Rosh Hashanah.

Literature is rife with pomegranate references – from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet  (the nightingale that “sings on yon pomegranate tree”) to Ogden Nash (“the hardest fruit upon this planet”). Artists as diverse as Caravaggio, Botticelli  and John Singer Sargent have been sufficiently charmed by the pomegranate to include it in many of their works. The beautiful appearance, the burnished red leathery peel and the crowned peak is a hard image to resist.

Pomegranates have proven health benefits. Folk medicine has long promoted uses for the juice, seeds and rinds in illnesses ranging from sore throats to dysentery. Current medical research is being conducted on the anti-oxidant and anti-viral qualities of pomegranates with the hope that its inherent properties may be helpful in treating various forms of cancer and heart disease.

The pomegranate has not escaped the eye of the beauty industry. Thanks to its astringent properties it has been used in soaps, shampoos, body scrubs and creams. There is talk that pomegranates might even offer anti-aging benefits!
Etymologically, the pomegranate can claim credit for grenade (a many-seeded weapon?), garnet (a ruby red gem) and the naming of the country Grenada.

Beyond all other facts surrounding this marvelous fruit, pomegranates taste great. The kernels of seed surrounded by flavorful scarlet flesh (arils) can be added to almost any dish. The seeds can be used as a garnish, dropped in a drink, extracted into juice or cooked into syrup. They can form an integral part of a dish’s composition or act as a sprinkle of color and a fresh burst of flavor.

At last, the world has become pomegranate savvy and this extraordinary food is claiming its rightful place on the table of man. We are pretty much obsessed with the pomegranate and have named a planet for it!

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