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The word "pomegranate" is from the Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded).
The pomegranate is a decidous shrub that typically grows 12-16 feet high, but can reach heights of up to 30 feet. It has red-brown bark that becomes gray with age, and stiff, angular branches that are sometimes spiny. The leaves are glossy and narrow. The bright red, white, or vaiegated flowers grow singly or in groups of two or three at the ends of the branches and have five to eight petals. Pomegranate flowers can self-pollinate, but commercial growers often rely on bees to pollinate their trees. The tree is fairly reistant to drought and light frost, has few insect pests, and is quite capable of living for over 200 years, although fruit production will typically decline significantly after about 20-30 years.
The fruit of the pomegranate (technically a berry) is 2-1/2 to 5 inches in diameter and has a tough, leathery skin that is usually yellowish with prominent overtones of red or pink. Each fruit contains up to 600 seeds, each of which is encased in a pulp that varies from white to deep red or purple in color.
The wild pomegranate is native to the Iranian Plateau and the Himalaya region of India and Pakistan, but cultivated varities are found across the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, into the drier regions of Southeast Asia, Korea, Japan, and tropical Africa. It was introduced into Latin America and California by the Spanish in 1769, but is only cultivated today in California and Arizona.
Pomegranate seeds can be eaten raw or used as a spice, and the pulp can be made into a juice or jam; pomegranate juice is the principal flavoring in grenadine liqueur. The flowers are also edible, and most often used like a vegetable. The seeds are high in dietary fiber, and both seeds and pulp are good sources of vitamins C and B, potassium, and antioxidants. The bark of the pomegranate tree has been used as a traditional remedy for diarrhea, dysentery, nose bleeds, hemorrhoids and intestinal parasites since ancient times, and the juice is an ancient tonic for heart and throat ailments. Modern science has found that pomegranate juice can help prevent heart disease and plaque build-up in arteries.
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This page was last updated on 10/17/2018.