Celebrating the Pomegranate
The name "pomegranate" derives from Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded"). It has only three syllables: pome • gran • ate, but is commonly pronounced with four. In fact, it is hard to pronounce with just three. Try it!
Rounded with a golden pink and red-colored outer skin, the pomegranate is filled with small, edible seeds surrounded by a tangy pulp. Three to five inches in length, they are available from fall until January or February. In addition to eating the fruit raw, the seeds are used as dessert toppings and pressed with the pulp to make juice. There are many varieties of pomegranates, and they all have beneficial nutritional properties. They are loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, and contain no fat, cholesterol or sodium. One pomegranate contains approximately 100 calories.
Celebrated in many cultures in both literature and art, the pomegranate has figures as a symbol of fertility, as well as death, seasons and prosperity.
One classic tale is that of Persephone, the Greek queen of the underworld. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of fertility and giver of grain. When she was a girl, Hades saw her and fell in love with her. He abducted her and held her captive in his underworld. Demeter wandered looking for her and mourning. Crops did not grow, and famine resulted. Zeus ordered that Persephone come back from Hades so that Demeter could see her and end the terrible famine. Hades let her go but gave her three pomegranate seeds, the symbolic food of the dead, to eat and so bind her to the underworld. Persephone had to return to the underworld for three months, but the rest of the time she was allowed to stay with the other Gods. This explains the seasons. When Persephone is in the underworld, there is winter because her mother is sad. When she returns, plants and crops grow, and the land is fertile again.
- Grenadine is made from pomegranates.
- Use whole pomegranates as decorations or centerpieces before using them in a recipe or eating.
- The flowers yield a red dye, and the bark can be used in tanning, giving leather a yellow hue.
- Pomegranates are ripe when the skin is a crimson color.
- The fruit should feel heavy and the skin should be shiny.
- Avoid fruit with cracks and splits in the skin.