|pomegranates, Punica granatum|
It is an easy fruit to recognize: a dull orangy red hard outer coating and inside something like 300 seeds, each in a BRIGHT red sphere of translucence. I remember my first reaction as VERY wary--they looked like red fish eyes or frog's eggs. But one taste made me a fan! Pomegranate seeds are delicious!
|pomegranates with seeds|
People centuries before me had that experience. Pomegranates have been cultivated since about 3,000 BCE. They apparently were domesticated from wild trees at the southern end of the Caucuses, northeastern Turkey and/or at the southern end of the Caspian Sea. There are still wild trees there. They appear to have been domesticated about the same time as dates, figs, grapes and olives.
The scientific name is Punica granatum. Long separated into a family of their own (Punicaceae), pomegranates are now classified in the Lythraceae, the loosestrife family.
The scientific name is based on the name used by the Roman writer Pliny. He called them malus punica, which is "Carthagean apple" or "apple from Carthage." Punic was the Latin adjective for Carthage in north Africa and its surroundings, the culture which succeeded the Phoenicians. Destroyed by Rome, Carthage was in what is today Tunisia. Rome imported pomegranates from them when they weren't at war.
In the scientific name, granatum means "many seeded," which pomegranates certainly are.
Our English common name, pomegranate, says the same thing. Pome is a Latin word for apple (or fruit), and there is granate again, "many seeded".
Zoroastrians (in the Persian Empire, by the 6th century BCE) used pomegranates in initiation ceremonies and marriages. (See previous post on pomegranates LINK).
They arrived in Egypt from Syria about 3600 years ago and probably places in between got them about that time.
The Phoenicians may have taken the pomegranate to North Africa and the western Mediterranean. They can and do grow in Sicily, mediterranean France and southern Spain. Zhang Qian, ambassador from the Han Chinese court to Greco-Bactrian capital Kabul carried a pomegranate tree to China when he returned home. He planted it in the Han capital Chang'an (now Xi'an) in 135 BC. From there it was dispersed across Asia.
|Developing fruit, pomegranate|
|pomegranates and water caltrops, seen in China|
Grenadine is the syrup of pomegranates, used to add flavor or color various alcoholic drinks. Pomegranate juice itself is a popular beverage from the eastern Mediterranean to India.
Comments and corrections welcome.
My pictures are from Tortola in the Caribbean, southern Spain, southern China, northern California, Tuscany, Italy and a northern Colorado grocery store: pomegranates have conquered the world
Previous post on pomegranates: Plant Story--Pomegranates, Punica granatum--in Story and Symbolism link
Bynum, H. and W. 2014. Remarkable Plants that Shape our World. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Print.
Food Reference.com Pomegranates Link Lots more wonderful pomegranate information! Accessed 2/12/15.
Vamosh, M. F. (no date given) Holy Land's Food at the Time of the Bible. Palphot Ltd., Herzlia, Israel. Print.
van Wyk, B-E. 2005. Food plants of the world. Timber 2005. Print
Buy the Book! Give it as a gift! This story and thirteen other plants from around the world are told in Curious Stories of Familiar Plants from Around the World. Available on Amazon link.
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