10 Things You May Not Know About Pomegranates
November is Pomegranate Month, so in celebration of this delicious fruit with its rich and varied history, we have discovered 10 interesting facts about the pomegranate that may give you an advantage a pub quiz one day.
1. All in a Name
The word ‘pomegranate’ comes from the medieval Latin words ‘pomum’, meaning ‘apple’ and ‘granatum’, meaning ‘seeded’, so pomegranate translates as ‘apple with many seeds’.
2. A Fruit With Deep Roots
Native to the Middle East, Pomegranate trees are actually deciduous shrubs, which thrive in areas with cool, mild winters and hot, arid summers. Pomegranate shrubs can live for over 200 years and are one of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world, having been in existence for approximately 4000 years.
3. A Berry With Unlikely Relatives
Pomegranates belong to the berry family, meaning that they are fleshy fruits that come from a single flower with one ovary and typically have several seeds. Pomegranates have more than a few seeds, in fact a single pomegranate can contain more than a thousand seeds. As an interesting sub-fact, cucumbers, aubergines and bananas are officially classified as berries, but strawberries and raspberries are not.
4. Food of the Gods
Pomegranates appear in a number of religious practices and are mentioned in several sacred texts.
· In the Quran they are referred to as ‘God’s good creations’ and it is noted that they grow in the Garden of Paradise.
· Pomegranates are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible and Ancient Iranian Christianity maintains that pomegranates grew in the Garden of Eden and they, rather than apples, were the real forbidden fruit.
· In Judaism, pomegranates are eaten during Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) because the average number of seeds in a pomegranate is 613, which is the same as the number of commandments in the Torah.
· In Buddhism, the pomegranate, peach and citrus fruit are considered to be the three blessed fruit.
· Hinduism associates pomegranates with the earth goddess, Bhoomidevi, and with elephant-headed god, Ganesha. Some Hindus also believe that pomegranates are a symbol of fertility and prosperity.
· In Iran, people celebrating Yalda Night during the Winter Solstice eat pomegranate to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness.
5. Fruit of Love and Death
In Greek mythology, pomegranates were believed to have grown from the blood of Adonis (and some images of pomegranates do make the seeds look disturbingly blood-like – it’s actually a bit creepy). Pomegranates were sacred to Adonis’ lover, Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love), who is said to have planted the first pomegranate tree on the Island of Cyprus. It’s connection to Aphrodite makes the pomegranate a symbol of love and fertility – must be all those rich, juicy red seeds!
Pomegranates also feature prominently in the myth of Hades and Persephone. When Hades, god of the underworld, married Persephone, he tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds, which condemned her to spending six months of every year in the underworld. As a result of this, Persephone’s mother, Demeter, went into mourning and everything above ground stopped growing for the six months in which her daughter was absent. This myth was used to explain the existence of the seasons and the fact that the land is only fertile during the spring and summer (when Persephone was freed from her imprisonment and reunited with Demeter each year).
To further bolster the pomegranates “death credentials”, the French word for pomegranate is ‘grenade’ and that is where the weapon got its name. The little pellets of shrapnel inside a grenade are reminiscent of the seeds inside a pomegranate. Think of that next time you order a nice superfood salad!
6. Housewarming Fruit
In modern day Greece, a pomegranate is a traditional housewarming gift. It should be placed under or near the home altar of the house to attract good luck, fertility, and abundance to the occupants.
7. Health-Giving Hero
Natural and holistic medicine has long used pomegranate in treatments for a range of complaints, from urinary infections and digestive disorders to sore throats, coughs, skin disorders and arthritis. It has even been used to treat tapeworm.
Whilst you may prefer over-the-counter medication to tackle your next cold, there is no denying that pomegranates are good for you (though maybe not for the planet, as food miles associated with pomegranates consumed in the UK are enough to make your eyes water a bit).
Packed full of fibre, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium, pomegranates also contain punicalagins (powerful antioxidants) and punicic acid, which is understood to help protect against heart disease, lower cholesterol, act as an anti-inflammatory, and may even contain anti-carcinogenic properties. No wonder A-listers go nuts for pomegranate seeds!
8. Pomegranate City
The city of Granada, in Spain, is named after the Spanish word for pomegranate and the city’s heraldic device is a pomegranate. You can find its image throughout the city, on street signs, manhole covers, plaques, and bollards, in wrought iron fencing and embossed onto buildings. It seems that wherever you look there is a pomegranate.
Pomegranates were introduced to Spain in 850BC, but it is believed that the fruit has special significance for Granada, having been chosen by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella as an emblem of their victory over the Moors of Al-Andalus, which took place in the city..
9. And You Thought They All Looked The Same…
There are over 500 cultivars of P. granatum (the pomegranate genus that is cultivated for its edible fruit) and these vary in fruit size, peel colour (which is most commonly red but can be yellow, purple or pink too), pith colour (which ranges from white to red), hardness of seed, time taken to reach maturity and juice content. The taste of a pomegranate differs depending on the variety you are eating and how ripe it is. It can be very sweet or extremely sour or tangy, but most are somewhere in between.
10. The Perfect Pairing
The word “garnet” comes from the Latin word granatus, which means seed or grain and is probably a reference to pomegranate seeds, as many garnets bear more than a passing resemblance to them. We’ve put this beautiful pair together for the Wild & Fine collection, which now features a limited edition double layer necklace incorporating a garnet and a pomegranate charm. The perfect gift for January birthdays (garnet is the birthstone for January in both the traditional and modern lists) or for anyone who loves jewellery that tells a story or two, as pomegranates decidedly do.
Like your favourite great aunt, pomegranates tell racy tales of love, sex and death. They whisper to us of far off lands and forbidden pleasures and their rich, exciting history has us griped from the first chapter.
Wear a pomegranate charm to attract your own adventures or simply to bring good luck to your household.