The pomegranate is a very odd fruit. Its juice has become popular and is often attributed with almost magical powers.
The name “pomegranate” derives from Latin pomum (‘apple’) and granatus (‘seeded’). The pomegranate’s botanical name, Punica Granatum, means “seeded fruit growing from a shrub or small tree.”
Jewish scholars believe that the pomegranate was the original “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden. It has been a symbol in many religions and cultures since Biblical times. Moses promised his followers that they would find the fruit in the Promised Land.
I has been a cultivated fruit since ancient times, but it was native to the region that is today’s Iran to northern India. In the 18th century, Spanish sailors introduced it to the southern United States and it is now cultivated widely in California and Arizona for juice production.
I remember my mother bring one home from the store when I was a child. It was strange. The skin is leathery. Inside are hundreds of edible seeds encased in a gelatinous sack of sweet, juicy pulp. The seeds and surrounding pulp (called arils) is colored from white to deep crimson. Unlike many fruits, we eat the seeds, though the juice is what is most prized these days.
As symbolic objects pomegranates sometimes have cultural or religious significance, as a symbol of life and fertility because of the many seeds. It is also a symbol of power (imperial orb) and blood and even death.
They meant fertility, beauty and eternal life in Greek and Persian mythology. The Ancient Greeks also saw it as a symbol of fertility and associated it with Demeter, Persephone, Aphrodite, and Athena.
In the Bible, it is only mentioned in the Old Testament. Pomegranates play a role as a symbol of righteousness in Judaism. It was believed that they contain 613 seeds, which correspond to the 613 commandments of the Torah. At Rosh Hashanah, some Jews eat this fruit one seed at a time, for each is a wish that may be fulfilled.
In Buddhism, pomegranates, peaches and lemons are considered three blessed kinds of fruit.
The Koran also mentions a pomegranate as a symbol of the good things created by God, and is sometimes referred to as the “apple of paradise.”
In the Middle Ages, the resemblance between a pomegranate and an imperial orb made it a symbol of power, probably a relic of Ancient Germanic representations.
Pomegranates have been seen as an aphrodisiac and are an ingredient of many love potions.
In modern Turkey today, families might throw a pomegranate on the floor and “crack” it on the New Year’s Eve to have a plentiful new year.
The ancient Persians recognized the beneficial effect of pomegranates. Theophrast and Pliny recounted the different varieties and their medicinal properties. Modern day science has shown that pomegranates contain antioxidants, large quantities of flavonoids that have important functions for cell regulation. Pomegranates also contain potassium, vitamin A, C, E, calcium and iron.
The pomegranate plant is evergreen and so is associated with immortality and the soul. of the soul. In time, the many seeds in a single fruit have come to stand for prosperity.