Family : Punicaceae
Pomegranate is the fruit of Punica
granatum, a bush or small tree of Asia belonging to the family
Punicaceae. Throughout the Orient, the pomegranate has since earliest
times occupied a position of importance alongside the grape and
the fig. Romanites considered this as the apple in the garden of
Eden. According to the Bible, King Solomon possessed an orchard
of pomegranates, and, when the children of Israel, wandering in
the wilderness, sighed for the abandoned comforts of Egypt, the
cooling pomegranates were remembered longingly. Centuries later,
the prophet Muhammad remarked, "Eat the pomegranate, for it purges
the system of envy and hatred."
The plant, which may attain 5 or
7 metres (16 or 23 feet) in height, has elliptic to lance-shaped,
bright-green leaves about 75 millimetres (3 inches) long and handsome
axillary orange-red flowers borne toward the ends of the branchlets.
The calyx is tubular and persistent and has five to seven lobes;
the petals are lance-shaped, inserted between the calyx lobes. The
ovary is embedded in the calyx tube and contains several compartments
in two series, one above the other. The fruit is the size of a large
orange, obscurely six-sided, with a smooth, leathery skin that ranges
from brownish yellow to red; within, it is divided into several
chambers containing many thin, transparent vesicles of reddish,
juicy pulp, each surrounding an angular, elongated seed. The fruit
is eaten fresh, and the juice is the source of grenadine syrup,
used in flavourings and liqueurs. The seeds are extracted from the
peel, pith and membranes, then dried. When dry, they are small and
dark-red to black in colour and slightly sticky.
While the pomegranate is considered
indigenous to Iran and neighbouring countries, its cultivation long
ago encircled the Mediterranean and extended through the Arabian
Peninsula, Afghanistan, and India. It is commonly cultivated in
the Americas from the warmer parts of the United States to Chile.
Though the pomegranate grows in a wide range of climates, good fruit
is produced only where high temperatures and dry atmosphere accompany
the ripening period. Deep, rather heavy loams appear to be the best
soils. Seeds can readily be grown, but choice varieties are reproduced
by cutting and layerings. Commercial propagation is performed by
taking hardwood cuttings 250-300 mm (10-12 inches) long and rooting
them in the open ground.
Pomegranate seeds have an astringent
smell and sweet-sour taste. A sweet and fresh syrup, known as Grenadine,
is made from the juice of pomegranate. Pomegranate syrup, used in
Middle Eastern cooking, has an intense concentrated flavour. Pomegranate
seeds are used in Indian cooking as a souring agent. Crushed seeds
are sprinkled in some of the Middle Eastern cuisines.
Pomegranate seeds are used in gargles
and widely used in Indian medicines. They are good to ease fevers
and to counteract diarrhoea.