5 October 2010

Pomegranates (Punica granatum)

Pomegranates are just coming into season here in Tunis.  They are such a dazzlingly beautiful fruit both to look at and to eat.  Their red seeds are so alluring and tempting and resemble little jewels.  Admittedly, it is a little time consuming to separate the seeds from the peel and the white membrane which surrounds the seeds but then, as the saying goes, good things are worth waiting for.  We tend to either eat the seeds sprinkled with a little rose water or orange flower water or juice the seeds in our juicer.  Pomegranate juice is said to help reduce cholestrol and high blood pressure.  The health benefits of pomegranate juice is explained in this link   "Pomegranate fruits contain polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins - all are beneficial antioxidants. Interestingly, pomegranate juice contains high levels of antioxidants - higher than most other fruit juices, red wine or green tea."

"The pomegranate is native to the region of central Asia and the Himalayan ranges of India, and has been cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Mediterranean region for several millennia.

A pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing to between five and eight meters tall. The pomegranate is mostly native to the central Asia and India. It has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times. It is widely cultivated throughout Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the drier parts of southeast Asia, Indonesia, peninsular Malaysia, the Mediterranean and Southern Europe and tropical Africa.  Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona for juice production.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to February.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it is in season from March to May.

An ancient fruit, pomegranate is mentioned in Europe as early as the Iron-Age Greek Mythology in the Homeric hymns. Yet, it has still to reach mainstream prominence as a consumer fruit in commercial markets of North America and the Western Hemisphere.

The name "pomegranate" derives from Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded"). This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (e.g., German Granatapfel, "Granat" meaning "garnet" and "Apfel" meaning "apple", thus "garnet apple"). Perhaps stemming from the French word for the fruit, "pomme-grenade", the pomegranate was known in early English as "apple of Grenada" -- a term which today survives only in heraldic blazons. This was probably a folk etymology, confusing Latin granatus with the Spanish city of Granada. The genus name Punica is named for the Phoenicians, who were active in broadening its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. In classical Latin, where "malum" was broadly applied to many apple-like fruits, the pomegranate's name was malum punicum or malum granatum, the latter giving rise to the Italian name melograno, or less commonly melagrana.This informative extract is from the following Wikipedia website:

Figure 1:  Fresh pomegranates from the local market.

Figure 2:  Pomegranate seeds.
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