Little do we know about the rich stories within our fruit bowls.
The story of Punica granatum commonly known as pomegranate began during the so called agricultural revolution that took place during the Neolithic period around 6000 years BC.
Within the “fertile crescent” which is the territory where the Mesopotamian civilization emerged many plants were domesticated, some had deeper impacts than others for the dietary habits of mankind, such is the case of wheat, but fruits were also domesticated and pomegranate was one of them.
Its low maintenance crops and abundant production made it a good choice for growing.
Equipped with a natural thick skin that preserves hundreds of juicy and delicate deep-red seeds, this great fruit is easy to carry and store. It has a slightly tar but fresh taste and it had a very special place within Mesopotamian, Indian, and ancient Greece and Rome.
It is very easy to see why they’ve capture people’s fascination and why they are revered, admired and sublimed to complex religious and philosophical connotations.
Pomegranates have inspired poems, songs, paintings, they have been motifs in religious and secular art.
Some of the symbolisms associated with them can be traced back to Mesopotamia and Egypt where it was considered as a regal fruit, representing power and prosperity.
When it was introduced to the Mediterranean region the ancient Greeks soon came up with a myth declaring pomegranates to be the product of the God Adonis’s blood after he was attacked by a boar.
After making its way into Rome, they named the fruit pomum granatum or “seeded apple”, although granatum also refers to a dark shade of red.
However its popularization within Europe came later during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Their affection for the fruit is clear in the naming of the city of Granada in Spain.
It is interesting to see how pomegranates have an equivalent sacred status for Judaism, Christianity and Islamic traditions. They are associated with prosperity, faith, fertility, purity and beauty.
After Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon pomegranates were soon incorporated to the Tudor heraldry instantly acquiring a regal status.
William Morris recaptured the Victorian fascination with medieval symbolisms and often used pomegranates for his tapestry and wallpaper designs. (See the image featured on the article’s cover)
Pomegranates were introduced in America y the Spanish during Colonial times. In New Spain (Now Mexico) one of the provinces was named “New Granada” and in South America the Viceroyalty of Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama was also called “Nueva Granada”. It is curious that the so called Catholic King and Queen of Spain chose to name after a quintessential Islamic association two of their territories in the New World.
When it comes to its gastronomic uses pomegranate juice fresh or fermented is documented since ancient times, it is vastly used as an especially delicate garnish in middle eastern cuisine.
I have to say that I particularly enjoy sprinkling blood-red pomegranate seeds on salads, cous cous and of course on one of the most famous mexican dishes the “Chile en Nogada” which was invented soon after the independence of Mexico in the City of Puebla.