pomegranate is a species of fruit-bearing
deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5-8
pomegranate is believed to have originated
in the area from Iran east to northern
India, but has been cultivated around the
Mediterranean for so long (several
millennia) that its true native range is not
accurately known. The ancient city of
Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit
during the Moorish period. It is also
extensively grown in South China and in
Southeast Asia, and could have been brought
by sea traders, assuming the pomegranate was
not native to the Pacific coast.
Missionaries from Spain are also said to be
the source for the pomegranate's
introduction into the Caribbean and Latin
America during the 1700-1800's.
Pomegranates and symbolism
chapter 28:33-34 directed that images of
pomegranates were woven onto the borders
Hebrew priestly robes. 1 Kings chapter
7:13-22 described pomegranates depicted in
the temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem.
In a later tradition Citation needed the
pomegranate's 613 seeds corresponded with
the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Some Jews
traditionally eat pomegranates on
The pomegranate gave its name to the grenade
from its shape and size (and the resemblance
of a pomegranate's seeds to a grenade's
fragments), and to the garnet from its
(seed casings) of the pomegranate are
consumed raw. The entire seed is eaten,
though the fleshy outer portion of the seed
is the part that is desired. The taste
differs depending on the variety of
pomegranate and its state of ripeness. It
can be very sweet or it can be very sour or
tangy, but most fruits lie somewhere in
between, which is the characteristic taste.
Pomegranate juice is a popular drink in the
Middle East, and is also used in Iranian and
Indian cuisine; it began to be widely
marketed in the US in 2004. Pomegranate
concentrate is used in Syrian cuisine.
Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened
pomegranate juice; it is used in cocktail
mixing. Before the tomato arrived to the
Middle East, grenadine was widely used in
many Persian foods; it can still be found in
traditional recipes. The juice can also be
used as an antiseptic when applied to cuts.
Pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a
One pomegranate delivers 40% of an adult's
daily vitamin C requirement. It is also a
rich source of folic acid and of
name, Punica is named after the Phoenicians,
who were active in spreading its
cultivation, partly for religious reasons.
Its species name granatum derives from the
Latin adjective granatus, meaning 'granular'
(because of the fruit's seeds/grana).
However, in classical Latin the species name
was malum punicum or malum granatum, where "malus"
is an apple. This has influenced the common
name for pomegranate in many languages (eg
German Granatapfel, seeded apple). Even
"pomegranate" itself has this meaning -
pomus is Latin for apple.
Another widespread root for "pomegranate" is
the Egyptian and Semitic rmn. Attested in
Ancient Egyptian, in Hebrew rimmôn, and in
Arabic rummân, this root was brought by
Arabic to a number of languages, including
Portuguese (romã), and Kabyle rrumman.
The tree is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub
or small tree growing to 5-8 m tall. The
leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glossy,
narrow oblong, entire, 3-7 cm long and 2 cm
broad. The flowers are bright red, 3 cm
diameter, with five petals (often more on
The fruit is between an orange and a
grapefruit in size, 7-12 cm diameter with a
rounded hexagonal shape, has a thick reddish
skin and many seeds. The edible part is the
brilliant red seed pulp surrounding the
Although it was previously given its own
family Punicaceae, recent genetic evidence
shows that Punica granatum may be a member
of the family Lythraceae. The only other
species in the Punicaceae genus, Socotra
Pomegranate Punica protopunica, is endemic
on the island of Socotra. It differs in
having pink (not red) flowers and smaller,
less sweet fruit.
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 are prone to root decay from fungal
diseases. They are tolerant of moderate
frost, down to about -10°C.
pomegranate, Punica granatum.
Pomegranates are high in polyphenols. The
most abundant polyphenols in pomegranate are
hydrolysable tannins, particularly
punicalagins, which have been shown in many
peer-reviewed research to be the superior
antioxidant responsible for the free-radical
scavenging ability of pomegranate juice.
Many food and dietary supplement makers have
found the advantages of using pomegranate
extracts instead of the juice (which has no
sugar, calories, or additives) as healthy
ingredients in their products. As far as
pomegranate extracts go, however, it may be
advisable to stick with ingredients
standardized to native constituents, as
these are absorbed into the body, and have
benefits backed by clinical research.
Many pomegranate extracts are esentially
ellagic acid, which is largely a by-product
of the juice extraction process, and is not
absorbed into the body. Other pomegranate
extracts are described as 'punicosides', a
new term invented by a clever marketing team
and not found in any peer-reviewed journals.
It may be advisable to look for finished
products which have pomegranate ingredients
that are backed by their own clinical
science, standardized to punicalagins, and
are of reputable quality.