Introduction and description
The pomegranate, botanical name Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree in the family Lythraceae.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to February, and in the Southern Hemisphere from March to May.
The Pomegranate is a shrub or small tree growing 6 to 10 m (20 to 33 ft) high, with multiple spiny branches. It is extremely long-lived, with some specimens in France surviving for 200 years. P. granatum leaves are opposite or subopposite, glossy, narrow oblong, entire, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long and 2 cm broad. The flowers are bright red and 3 cm in diameter, with three to seven petals. Some fruitless varieties are grown for the flowers alone.
The edible fruit is a berry, intermediate in size between a lemon and a grapefruit, 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in) in diameter with a rounded shape and thick, reddish skin. The number of seeds in a pomegranate can vary from 200 to about 1400. Each seed has a surrounding water-laden pulp — the edible sarcotesta that forms from the seed coat — ranging in colour from white to deep red or purple. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent membrane.
Pomegranates are native to a region from Iran to northern India. They have been cultivated throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean region for several millennia. Kandahar is famous in Afghanistan, for example, for its pomegranates. . It is extensively grown in South China and in Southeast Asia. Although not native to Korea or Japan, the pomegranate is also widely grown there and many cultivars have been developed. Spanish colonists introduced the fruit to the Caribbean and America (Spanish America).
Pomegranates are drought-tolerant, and can be grown in dry areas with either a Mediterranean winter rainfall climate or in summer rainfall climates. In wetter areas, they can be prone to root decay from fungal diseases. They can be tolerant of moderate frost, down to about −12 °C (10 °F).
Pomegranate grows easily from seed, but is commonly propagated from hardwood cuttings to avoid the genetic variation of seedlings. Air layering is also an option for propagation, but grafting fails.
Seared Duck Breast with Pomegranate Molasses
The pomegranate has long been a sacred and symbolic object. The symbolism is described in the symbol section of the site – please follow the LINK – but much of the symbolism is associated with its Egg shape, the seeds within the egg, its Blood red colour and the fact that its calyx is shaped like a crown. Pomegranates even symbolize the mystical experience in the kabbalah and other Mystic movements, with the typical reference being to entering the "garden of pomegranates" or pardes rimonim; this is also the title of a book by the 16th-century mystic Moses ben Jacob Cordovero.
There is also a sexual connection seen when the pomegranate splits, meaningful only to those who practised the Mysteries. Needless to say this connection has led to a more general meaning where the pomegranate became a symbol of fertility. “It is traditional in Greece to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings”. A vestal virgin no more.
The pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible many times, including this quote from the Songs of Solomon,
Song of Solomon 4:3
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
In Ancient Greek mythology, the pomegranate was connected with the blood of Adonis. The myth of Persephone, prominently features the pomegranate. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting Persephona depicts Persephone holding the fatal fruit.
"About the pomegranate I must say nothing," whispered the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century, "for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery."
Nutrients and medicinal uses
The pomegranate is one fruit where, if you looked at the mineral and vitamin content alone, you might be deluded into thinking it was not an important fruit. It is an important source of Vitamin C and the B vitamins and has some useful minerals, but the pomegranate’s real claim lies in all its other chemicals.
The full analysis with all the activity can be found in the observations, however, we have reordered Dr Duke’s list, selecting a few key beneficial chemicals of the pomegranate fruit. Dr Duke’s analysis includes the bark, stems and leaves as well. Dr Duke uses the term fruit – meaning the whole fruit, the seed and the pericarp. In fleshy fruits, the outer layer is the pericarp, which is the tissue that develops from the ovary wall of the flower and surrounds the seeds. Thus everything that is not the seed is classified as the pericarp.
There are all sorts of very promising activities in this list – all to be had by eating a delicious food.
ASCORBIC-ACID Fruit 40 - 636 ppm – Vitamin C
CALCIUM Fruit 30 - 650 ppm [an essential mineral]
SULFUR Fruit 120 ppm;
CARBOHYDRATES Fruit 162,000 - 927,000 ppm
CHLOROGENIC-ACID Fruit: Chlorogenic acid is an important intermediate in lignin biosynthesis. This compound, known as an antioxidant, may also slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal
CITRIC-ACID Fruit Juice 8,100 - 12,300 ppm
COPPER Fruit 2 ppm;
DELPHINIDIN- Pericarp: Delphinidin is an anthocyanidin, a primary plant pigment, and also an antioxidant.
ELAIDIC-ACID Pericarp 5,500 ppm; is an Antiinflammatory
ESTRADIOL Seed: Estrogenic
ESTRONE Seed 17 ppm; Antiimpotence; Antimenopausal; Antivaginitic; Aphrodisiac; Estrogenic
FAT Fruit 1,000 - 38,000 ppm Seed 50,000 - 200,000 ppm
FIBER Fruit 2,000 - 232,000 ppm Seed 224,000 ppm;
GALLIC-ACID Pericarp 900 - 40,000 ppm gallic acid extracted from grape seeds has been shown to inhibit the formation of amyloid fibrils, one of the potential causes of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. It is also a potent antiviral [adenovirus, flu, herpes, HIV, polio] ; antibacterial [escherichic, MRSA, staphylococcic]; Candidicide and antiparasitic.
GRANATIN Pericarp: Granatin is an ellagitannin. Ellagitannins have been investigated in cells and animals in laboratories for antioxidant, anti-cancer, antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-parasite activities, as well as their ability to regulate blood glucose
MALVIDIN Fruit: a primary plant pigment and an Antioxidant
MANNITOL Pericarp 18,000 ppm; is a white, crystalline solid that looks and tastes sweet. Medically it is used to treat increased intracranial pressure, is Antiglaucomic; Antiinflammatory; an Antioxidant; AntiReye's; Diuretic; and a natural Laxative
NEO-CHLOROGENIC-ACID Fruit: being investigated as an anticancer agent and preventative
PALMITIC-ACID Seed: is the most common fatty acid
PHOSPHATIDYL-CHOLINE Seed: reported by Dr Duke to be Antimanic 15-30 g/man/day/orl
POLYPHENOLS Fruit 2,200 - 10,500 ppm according to Dr Duke these are Antibacterial and antiviral [AntiHIV; Antilipolytic]. They are also Chelators.
PROTOCATECHUIC-ACID Fruit: is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is also Antibacterial; Antiviral [Antiherpetic]; and a Fungicide
PUNICALAGIN Pericarp: AntiHIV; Antimalarial; AntiMRSA; Trypanocide
PUNICALIN Pericarp: AntiAIDS; HIV-RT-Inhibitor
URSOLIC-ACID Fruit: Antitumor (Brain, Breast, Cervix, Colon, Lung, Ovary, Stomach) ; Anticancer; Antiviral – AntiEBV, AntiHIV; Antibacterial – Antiescherichic, Antistaphylococcic; Antiparasitic – Antileishmanic, Antimalarial, Antiplasmodial, Antitrypanosomic; Antifungal – Candidicide
In the Indian subcontinent's ancient Ayurveda system of traditional medicine, the pomegranate is frequently described as an ingredient in remedies.
According to the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical writings from around 1500 BC, Egyptians used the pomegranate for treatment of tapeworm and other infections. As you can see from the analysis above it does have antiparasitic and anti-pathogenic activity.
Introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), the pomegranate (Chinese: 石榴; pinyin: shíliu) is considered an emblem of fertility. This symbolism is a pun on the Chinese character 子 (zǐ) which, as well as meaning seed, also means "offspring" thus a fruit containing so many seeds is a sign of fecundity. But glance at the list above and you will see that there are some chemicals, for example Estradiol and Estrone, in the fruit which literally help in infertility - of women anyway.
Pomegranates can be used in both sweet dessert dishes and in savoury dishes.
- Pomegranate seeds - The pomegranate is opened by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the seeds are then separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. The seed and its surrounding red sac is consumed raw. Dried pomegranate seeds, still have their exterior coat, but the water content is reduced considerably. They are used in trail mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream.
- Pomegranate juice - can be sweet or tart, the sour notes come from the acidic tannins contained in the juice and are thus variety dependent. In Azerbaijan, a sauce made from pomegranate juice - narsharab, is served with fish or tika kabab. The phenolic content of pomegranate juice is adversely affected by processing and pasteurization techniques.
- Pomegranate wine - The pomegranate is one of the main fruits in Armenia culture (the others being apricot and grapes). Its juice is famous with Armenians in food, and wine. The pomegranate is also the symbol of Armenia
- Jam – pomegranates contain quite a reasonable amount of pectin and make a nice clear pretty pink jam.
- Grenadine syrup - should be made with thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice, although “is now usually a sales name for a syrup based on various berries, citric acid, and food colouring, mainly used in cocktail mixing. In Europe, Bols still manufactures grenadine syrup with pomegranate.”
- Pomegranate molasses – or pomegranate syrup – is a treacly-rich fruit syrup used in savoury and sweet dishes alike. Most often found in Middle Eastern recipes, and often referred to as dibs rumman, pomegranate molasses has a fruity sweetness countered by a lovely, sharp tart flavour, a little like tamarind. We have provided a few example recipes to show how it is used. It requires a great deal of time and patience to prepare well. The best tends to come from the Middle east, for example, one premium artisan Lebanese brand of pomegranate syrup, available in Europe is made only from concentrated pomegranate juice with no added sugar.
- Pomegranate paste - Iran is the second largest producer and largest exporter of pomegranate in the world. It also produces pomegranate paste used in Iranian cuisine, e.g. chicken, ghormas and refreshment bars.
Nadia Zerouali’s Rose meringue with pomegranate seeds
This recipe also makes a lovely base for a pavlova made with whipped cream and pomegranate seeds, but you do need more seeds
6 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 120C/250F/gas mark ½. Make sure the bowl and whisk are clean and grease-free.
Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat on a medium speed until just thickened.
Add one-third of the sugar and beat on a higher speed. Keep adding the sugar and turning up the speed then beat on the highest speed until it forms stiff peaks.
With a wooden spoon, fold in the cornflour and rose water to taste.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and arrange dollops of meringue any way you wish. Bake for about 2 hours.
Remove the meringue from the oven and set aside to cool.
To serve, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a dash of icing sugar, to taste.
Mouhamara is usually served alongside hummus and baba ghanoush on a meze platter. The sweetness of this dip nicely counters the garlicky saltiness of the others.
1 jar cooked skinned red and yellow peppers in olive oil
Ground walnuts [to taste]
Pomegranate molasses [to taste]
Simply stir all the ingredients together, adjusting the quantities according to taste
Burrata with basil, orange and pomegranate
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture.
2 large burrata
1 pack pomegranate seeds [approx. 2 pomegranates]
For the dressing
Pour the pomegranate and blood orange juice into a pan and add the honey. Reduce the mixture to a syrup, taking care not to let it burn. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.
On a large serving dish, arrange the basil leaves as the base and scatter with orange segments
Drain off the burrata, carefully halve and place cut side up amongst the basil, scatter with pomegranate seeds
Mix 50ml of the syrup with the olive oil. Add lemon juice to taste. Season the salad with salt and drizzle generously with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Roasted vegetables with pomegranate molasses
This goes will with simple roasted meats such as roast chicken or roast lamb, but it is also good with scrambled egg!
1 lbs carrots, peeled, trimmed, and halved or quartered lengthwise
1 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled, trimmed, and quartered lengthwise
½ lb butternut squash, peeled, trimmed, and quartered lengthwise
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
a pinch of cayenne pepper [optional] or a few drops tabasco sauce
3 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or parsley
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the vegetables in the oil, salt, and red pepper or cayenne. Spread them out in a single layer.
Roast for 15 minutes, stir well, and roast for 10 more minutes.
Then remove from the oven and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses; toss gently to coat the vegetables with the molasses.
Roast until the vegetables are golden and soft, about 5-10 more minutes.
Serve garnished with the chopped herbs.
Ruth Joseph’s Squash and pomegranate salad
1 small squash cut into chunks, peeled, deseeded
For the dressing
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Coat the squash segments with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tip into a roasting tin and bake for about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly.
2 Arrange the salad leaves on the base of your serving plate. Finely chop the mint and coriander leaves and combine with the grated carrots. Season with a little salt and pepper, then layer over the leaves.
3 Put the orange slices on top. Add the roasted squash segments, then the pomegranate seeds and the walnut and date pieces.
4 Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then drizzle over the salad plate to serve.
If you have an Aga this can be made first using the top oven then the bottom oven.
Serve the lamb with the salad and some plain salted yoghurt [optionally with chopped mint leavesadded], plain rice or flatbreads.
For the slaw
1 Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9. Puree 2 onions in a food processor with the ras el hanout, salt and pepper. Slice the other 2 onions and lay them on the base of a deep roasting dish big enough to hold the lamb. Pat the pureed onion mix all over the lamb, top and bottom, and lay it on the bed of onions.
2 Put the roasting dish uncovered in the upper-middle part of the very hot oven for around 30 minutes, by which point it should have started to brown (it may take another 10 minutes if your oven doesn’t run very hot).
3 Once browned, pour in enough water to reach halfway up the lamb joint, then cover the dish. Reduce the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and roast for 1 hour. Uncover, baste with the liquid at the bottom of the dish, then re-cover and return to the oven. Reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and cook for 1 hour more. Baste again, re-cover and cook for a further hour. Basting is important, as it will help to soften the lamb, so don’t skip doing this. After 3½ hours, the meat should be really soft and fall away from the bone easily.
4 To make the slaw, sprinkle the salt over the shredded cabbage, mix and allow to sit for 10‑15 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley and vegetable oil and mix well. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds.
Cucumber and pomegranate salsa
The seeds from one large pomegranate
This goes well with burgers, roasted chicken legs, roasted duck legs, sausages, chilli, scrambled egg, and various cold meats.
All you do is mix the ingredients together
Thick goat’s milk yoghurt with pomegranate and cinnamon
There is one variety of Goat’s milk yoghurt sold in the UK which is especially thick and creamy, if you can’t find this then use Greek yoghurt. This makes a very healthy dessert dish.
handful of pecans, roughly chopped
Lightly toast the pecans. Set aside to cool.
Spoon the yoghurt into two bowls, drizzle with honey
Scatter nuts, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon on top
Matt Dryden ‘s Warm ricotta with kale, pomegranate and chestnuts
This also works if you put the kale at the bottom and drizzle both the molasses and ricotta over the kale. This way you can make the dish into a main meal by having a base of wholegrain cooked rice
200g kale, picked and washed
1 In a large pan of salted, boiling water, blanch the kale for 3-4 minutes then refresh in iced water. Once cold drain and set to one side.
2 Gently fry the chestnuts in a splash of olive oil for a couple of minutes then add your blanched kale to reheat.
3 In a separate pan, gently warm the ricotta through.
4 To serve put the warm ricotta on the bottom of a serving plate and top with the hot chestnuts and kale. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses over and scatter with fresh seeds.
There are a number of other recipes that use Pomegranate molasses in particular in the section on plums.
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- Dioscorides and De Materia Medica - Pomegranate 018073
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Punica granatum L. (Punicaceae) -- Granado (Sp.), Granatapfelbaum (Ger.), Granatapfelstrauch (Ger.), Grenadier (Fr.), Mangrano (Sp.), Pomegranate, Romanzeiro (Port.), Zakuro (Jap.) 022816
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