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The Pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5–8 m tall. The pomegranate is native to the region from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region and the Caucasus since ancient times. It is widely cultivated throughout Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, India, the drier parts of southeast Asia, Peninsular Malaysia, the East Indies, and tropical Africa. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated mainly in the drier parts of California and Arizona for its fruits exploited commercially as juice products gaining in popularity since 2001. In the global functional food industry, pomegranate is included among a novel category of exotic plant sources called superfruits.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to January. In the Southern hemisphere, it is in season from March to May.
Additional recommended knowledge
Foliage and fruit
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 in diameter, with four to five petals (often more on cultivated plants). The fruit is between a lemon and a grapefruit in size, 5–12 cm in diameter with a rounded hexagonal shape, and has thick reddish skin and around 600 seeds. The seeds and surrounding pulp, ranging in colour from white to deep red, called arils, are edible; indeed, the fruit of the pomegranate is a berry. There are some cultivars which have been introduced that have a range of pulp colours such as purple.
Punica granatum nana is a dwarf variety of P. granatum popularly used as Bonsai trees and as a patio plant. The only other species in the genus Punica is the Socotran pomegranate (Punica protopunica), which is endemic to 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 (14°F).
The name "pomegranate" derives from Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded"). This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (e.g. German Granatapfel, seeded apple). The genus name Punica is named for the Phoenicians, who were active in broadening its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. In classical Latin, where "malum" was broadly applied to many apple-like fruits, the pomegranate's name was malum punicum or malum granatum, the latter giving rise to the Italian name melograno, or less commonly melagrana.
A separate, widespread root for "pomegranate" comes from the Ancient Egyptian rmn, from which derive the Hebrew rimmôn, and Arabic rummân. This root was given by Arabs to other languages, including Portuguese (romã), Kabyle rrumman and Maltese "rummien". The pomegranate ('rimmôn') is mentioned in the Bible as one of the seven fruits/plants that Israel was blessed with, and in Hebrew, 'rimmôn' is also the name of the weapon now called the grenade. According to the OED, the word grenade originated about 1532 from the French name for the pomegranate, la grenade. La grenade also gives us the word grenadine, the name of a kind of fruit syrup, originally made from pomegranates, which is widely used as a cordial and in cocktails.
Even though this fruit does not originate from China, one common nickname is "Chinese apple." In German and Dutch, the term "Chinese Apple" (apfelsine in German), refers to the orange
Cultivation and uses
The pomegranate originated from Persia and has been cultivated in Georgia, Armenia and the Mediterranean region for several millennia.
In Georgia, and Armenia to the east of the Black Sea, there are wild pomegranate groves outside of ancient abandoned settlements. The cultivation of the pomegranate has a long history in Armenia, where decayed remains of pomegranates dating back to 1000 BC have been found. 
Carbonized exocarp of the fruit has been identified in Early Bronze Age levels of Jericho, as well as Late Bronze Age levels of Hala Sultan Tekke on Cyprus and Tiryns. A large, dry pomegranate was found in the tomb of Djehuty, the butler of Queen Hatshepsut; Mesopotamian cuneiform records mention pomegranates from the mid-Third millennium BC onwards. It is also extensively grown in South China and in Southeast Asia, whether originally spread along the route of the Silk Road or brought by sea traders.
The ancient city of Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period. Spanish colonists later introduced the fruit to the Caribbean and Latin America, but in the English colonies it was less at home: "Don't use the pomegranate inhospitably, a stranger that has come so far to pay his respects to thee," the English Quaker Peter Collinson wrote to the botanizing John Bartram in Philadelphia, 1762. "Plant it against the side of thy house, nail it close to the wall. In this manner it thrives wonderfully with us, and flowers beautifully, and bears fruit this hot year. I have twenty-four on one tree... Doctor Fothergill says, of all trees this is most salutiferous to mankind." The pomegranate had been introduced as an exotic to England the previous century, by John Tradescant the elder, but the disappointment that it did not set fruit there led to its repeated introduction to the American colonies, even New England. It succeeded in the South: Bartram received a barrel of pomegranates and oranges from a correspondent in Charleston, South Carolina, 1764. Thomas Jefferson planted pomegranates at Monticello in 1771: he had them from George Wythe of Williamsburg.
After opening the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the skin (peel) and internal white supporting structures (pith and carpellary membrane). Separating the red arils can be simplified by performing this task in a bowl of water, whereby the arils will sink and the white structures will float to the top. The entire seed is consumed raw, 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, laced with notes of its tannin.
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 United States in 2002 . Fresh pomegranate arils are used in preparation of curd rice (Telugu: Dadhojanam) in Andhra Pradesh in India. 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 in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Persian foods; it can still be found in traditional recipes such as fesenjan (a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, usually spooned over duck or other poultry and rice) and ash-e anar (pomegranate soup) .
Wild pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice, known as anardana (which literally means pomegranate (anar) seeds (dana) in Persian), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine but also as a replacement for pomegranate syrup in Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine. As a result of this, the dried whole seeds can often be obtained in ethnic markets. The seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry production. The seeds may also be ground in order to avoid seeds becoming stuck in the teeth when eating dishes prepared with them. The seeds of the wild pomegranate daru from the Himalayas are considered the highest quality source for this spice.
In Armenia and the Caucasus, pomegranate (Armenian: nur) is used in a variety of ways, notably as pomegranate juice.  In Turkey pomegranate sauce, (Turkish: nar ekşisi) is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and sometimes to garnish desserts such as Güllaç. Pomegranate syrup or molasses are used in Muhammara, a Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut, and Garlic Spread popular in Syria as well as Turkey.  In Azerbaijan and Armenia, pomegranate is also used to make high-quality wine which is successfully exported to other countries.
In Greece, pomegranate (Greek: ροδι, rodi) is used in many recipes; such as kollivozoumi, a delicious creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins; legume salad with wheat and pomegranate; traditional Middle Eastern lamb kebabs with pomegranate glaze; pomegranate eggplant relish; avocado and pomegranate dip; are just some of the dishes in which it is used. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur and popular fruit confectionery that can be used as ice cream topping, or mixed with yogurt, and even spread as jams over toast for breakfast.
Providing 16% of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement per 100 ml serving, pomegranate juice is also a good source of the B vitamin, pantothenic acid, potassium and antioxidant polyphenols. Overall, however, pomegranate is not a significant source of nutrients.
The most abundant polyphenols in pomegranate juice are the hydrolyzable tannins called punicalagins shown in 39 peer-reviewed research publications over 1990-2007 (August) to have potent free-radical scavenging ability in laboratory studies. The antioxidant punicalagins absorb into the human body after consumption of pomegranate extracts, and an ex vivo study of human plasma after consumption of a pomegranate extract standardized to punicalagins indicated an average 32% increase in plasma antioxidant capacity.
Many food and dietary supplement makers have found the advantages of using pomegranate extracts (which have no sugar, calories, or additives), instead of the juice, as healthy ingredients in their products. Many pomegranate extracts are essentially ellagic acid, which may only be absorbed into the body after consumption of punicalagins.
In preliminary laboratory research and human pilot studies, juice of the pomegranate has been found effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation, all of which are steps in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Tannins such as punicalagins have been identified as the primary components responsible for the reduction of oxidative stress which led to these risk factors. Pomegranate has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).
Metabolites of pomegranate juice ellagitannins have been shown to localize specifically in the prostate gland, colon and intestinal tissues of mice. Other research indicates that pomegranate juice may be effective against prostate cancer and osteoarthritis. In 2007, five clinical trials in the United States and Norway were conducted to examine the effects of pomegranate juice consumption on parameters of prostate cancer or prostatic hyperplasia, diabetes or lymphoma.. The studies have not concluded (December 2007) but interim reports released to the public media were that pomegranate juice may slow onset or development of prostate cancer (above).
The juice may also have antiviral and antibacterial effects against dental plaque.
The dried stem and root bark of the tree contain about 0.4-0.9% alkaloids.
In a recent (completed in November of 2007) study by the USDA, results showed that the regular consumption of pomegranates or pomegranate juice could negate the harmful effects of prolonged exposure to the low levels electromagnetic radiation from computers, cell phones, and other household electronic devices.
Pomegranates and symbolism
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pomegranate". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|