"Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred.
--The Prophet Mohammed

"Or from Browning some 'Pomegranate', which, if cut deep down the middle, Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity"
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lady Geraldine's Courtship

"Nathaniel, what of pomegrates?
They were sold for a few pence in that Eastern market
Where they had been tumbled on to reed trays.
Some had rolled away into the dust
And naked children picked them up.

Their juice is tart like unripe rasberries.
Their flowers look made of wax;
They are coloured like the fruit.

Guarded treasure, honeycomb partitions,
Richness of flavour,
Pentagonal architecture.
The rind splits; seeds fall--
Crimson seeds in azure bowls,
Or drops of gold in dishes of enamelled bronze.
--André Gide in Les Nourritures Terrestres (trans. Dorothy Bussy)

"And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs."
--Numbers 13:23

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(Punica granatum)

Not surprisingly, the word pomegranate, from the Latin pomum granatum, means "apple of many seeds." In fact, if you can't bring yourself to chew and swallow those many seeds, you probably aren't interested in buying the fresh fruit, with its leathery red skin--regardless of its seductive flavor.

And seductive it has always been.

Ezra Pound and Noel Stock translated, second hand, the following "Garden Song" from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics:

"The pomegranate speaks:
My leaves are like your teeth
My fruit like your breasts.
I, the most beautiful of fruits,
Am present in all weathers, all seasons
As the lover stays forever with the beloved,
Drunk on 'shedeh' and wine.

All the trees lose their leaves, all
Trees but the pomegranate.
I alone in all the garden lose not my beauty,
I remain straight.
When my leaves fall,
New leaves are budding.

First among fruits
I demand that my position be acknowledged,
I will not take second place.
And if I receive such an insult again
You will never hear the end of it...."

(This translation was based on Boris de Rachewiltz' literal renderings into Italian of papyri and pottery dating back to 1567-1085 BCE.)

Then, in the Song of Songs, Sheba ecstatically replies to Solomon's blandishments: "Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my love." He describes her as a garden whose "plants are an orchard of pomegranates"; he says, "As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks." She then says she wants him to drink "the spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate"--whew! this is suggestive courtship at its best.

The ancient Greeks associated it with the story of Persephone. When inflamed Pluto abducted Persephone to the underworld to set her on his throne, her mother Demeter--goddess of nature--was not happy. She grieved the world into famine so that Zeus was forced to intervene, requiring Pluto to restore Persephone to earth...so long as she had eaten no food in the interim. Alas, unhappy as she was, Persephone had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds to quench her thirst. The compromise? She would return to earth for 6 months--and return to Hades for the other six. Demeter obliged with weather to match. Summer and winter were born. It's this association of pomegranate with death and rebirth that later made it a Christian symbol of the Resurrection.

In the meantime, the Romans imported pomegranates from North Africa, calling it malum punicum, or "apple of Carthage. Ultimately, Andre Gide, that talented French pervert, would savor it: "The juice is tart, like the juice of unripe raspberries."

Pomegranates probably originated in the Persia/Central Asia area, then spread to North Africa, thence to Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean, including Spain. Spanish sailors took them to the New World.

In Judaism, the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, relating to the first commandment of the Torah, to be fruitful and multiply. In Arabic folklore and poetry, it is a symbol for the female breast. In modern Greece, they represent agatha, the good things of life.


If you can't find the real stuff at a specialty food store, don't substitute grenadine syrup! Grenadine used to be made out of pomegranates, but now is a confection of red food coloring. To make your own syrup, juice 8-10 pomegranates, strain out the seeds, then mix with 1/2 cup of sugar and a couple drops of lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, til it thickens into a clear light syrup. Refrigerated, it will keep well.