(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 7, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but the author of this article passed away a few years ago, and so we ask that you do not post any questions here.)
Like Christmas bulbs decorating an arching shrub, bright red globe fruits dance on a pomegranate bush. A pomegranate fruit, when opened, reveals hundreds of tiny seeds nestled tightly against each other. Each seed (called an aril) is surrounded by a translucent, almost glimmering red or dark pink coating. Both the seeds and the coatings are edible, although many people prefer to spit out the seeds.
According to Dave's Garden PlantFiles, the pomegranate is in the Punicaceae family. Its botanical name is Punica granatum.
The picture to the right is of my pair of two-year-old bushes that I grew from an old, dried pomegranate. These plants overwintered last year in my garage.
Here are some pictures that flyboyFL (a Florida DG member) graciously let me use for this article:
Two of the following pictures are also from DG member flyboyFL; the middle one is a PlantFiles picture taken by a DG member from India.
The health benefits of pomegranates, as listed in Wikipedia, are almost too good to be true. They are effective (or are being studied for remedies) against maladies such as: the common cold, heart disease, problem blood pressure, viruses, dental plaque, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and even diabetes. Pomegranates are high in vitamins C and B5, Potassium and, of course, antioxidants.(1)
When I am not feeling well, I will typically ask my husband to bring home chicken noodle soup, a clear soda pop and a couple containers of pure 100% POM® brand pomegranate juice. One time, I had a horrible cough and congestion. I pureed a whole fruit, without the outside rind, in my commercial grade blender. The cold was destroyed in a day. I have been known to drive to three or four stores in search of pure pomegranate juice. I, of course, am not advocating that you treat yourself or that this fruit is the answer to all that ails you. Be sure to consult your doctor.
Pomegranate rinds and flowers are used for textile dyes. The leaves, when mixed with vinegar produce an ink. The bark and stems contain high levels of the toxin tannin and have been used to combat tapeworms (of course, you should consult a professional.)
Most of the plants produce dark red fruits with sparkling red seeds. However, some white rind types are sold. A few of these produce light red arils while some are white inside. Raintree Nursery sells a white seeded variety called 'Eversweet'. Here is a link to Dave's Garden, Garden Watchdog report on Raintree Nursery.
Pomegranate seeds will typically germinate readily; the seedlings I grew put up with my neglect. The shrubs may also be grown from suckers from adult plants or from rooted cuttings.
Although the Pomegranate bush is hardy to about zone 7b, in the colder regions the fruit might not set. In Oklahoma, I have seen bushes growing outside but I have not noticed large fruits. Last week, I told my husband that I would be bringing one of my pomegranate bushes inside for the winter. I want to see if it will flower and fruit inside. If my plant only produces flowers, I will be delighted because the rose-like flowers are beautiful, even if the shrub itself is a bit messy and may have sharp thorn-like growths. (Regular, deep watering may help reduce the number of thorns.) Below is a wonderful picture of a flower, used by lunavox's permission, from Dave's Garden Plant Files:
There are many ways to cut into and eat a pomegranate. The below referenced Dave's Garden thread and article both explain a water method. My method is to simply score (cut through the outside but not into the fruit) the rind from the crown blossom end to almost the other end. Make four of these scores, one on each "side" of the pomegranate. Put your thumbs at the top crown end, add outward pressure and pop the fruit open. See the pictures below.
Some people (including my husband) think that eating the pomegranate is just too much bother. Personally, I delight in the process. Of course, I was always in trouble for playing with my food anyway.
You do not have to eat the seeds one at a time; pomegranates have been made into sauces, soups, spice and salads for many years. Here are three pictures of my favorite uses for arils.
Additional interesting facts:
May you enjoy your journey into the wonderful world of pomegranates. Please feel free to share your favorite recipes, memories or comments below.