Monday, March 23, 2015


Looking at a blooming pomegranate tree is akin to looking at fire. You can’t take your eyes away. The flowers, 3 cm in diameter have four to five petals and they are a vibrant red. The feeling of joy I would get from a chance glimpse over a garden wall of a blooming pomegranate tree is a feeling that still resonates with me. Called Punica granatum in botany, pomegranate is a small tree growing between 5-8 meters. It is believed to have originated in Iran. Today it is cultivated in the Mediterranean basin and it has been introduced to many other parts of the world. In the Northern Hemisphere it flowers through June and July and the fruit is in season from September to February.

Despite the fact that this fruit was and still is widely used in Turkish cuisine, pomegranate did not used to be grown commercially when I was a child. In season one would find it at bazaars and green grocers, brought in by local farmers and gardeners as a delicacy.

Pomegranate belongs to the family Punicaceae which includes only one genus and two species, the little-known other one being native to the archipelago of four islands called Socotra in the Indian Ocean.

The red fruit is about 12 cm in diameter and it has a rounded hexagonal shape. After the peel is scored with a knife all around, the pomegranate can be broken open. The white membranes separating the chambers are peeled off and the seeds are taken out of the indentations in the fleshy interior of the skin. They can be placed in a bowl and eaten with a spoon. The edible part is the sarcotesta, which is a type of testa, the protective hard and juicy outer layer of the seeds. Some people swallow the seed but it is better to eat the juicy testa and spit out the seeds. The number of seeds in a pomegranate may vary from 200 to about 1400 seeds.

                      An old folk riddle goes, ‘when I bought it at the bazaar I had one, when I brought it home I had a thousand.’

The name pomegranate derives from Medieval Latin pōmum -‘apple’ and grānātum -‘seeded’. This has influenced the cognate common names for pomegranate in many western languages. In Turkish and Bulgarian the fruit is exceptionally named nar. The genus name Punica refers to the Phoenicians who cultivated it widely and perhaps carried it to other realms.

                                                                A blossom pressed 18 years ago still keeps its color

When soldiers found a similarity between their shapes, the military grenade acquired its name from the French term grenade for pomegranate.  

Fortunately, this nutritious fruit has been a symbol of good things in many cultures since ancient times.

                                                                                        A ceramic pomegranate


  1. Hi Beste - I do know this one ... my little house, built for railway workers in the late 1800s in Johannesburg, had (after alterations when the houses were sold off) a patio shaded by a pomegranate tree .. it had magnificent fruits ... prickly and difficult to get hold of ...

    .. but one year I was determined to cook for friends using pomegranates in all the courses .. this was back in the 1980s ... it was rich!!!!!!! But I love them - pain in a butt to extract ...

    Great memories .. cheers Hilary

  2. The seeds are indeed difficult to extract Hilary. I do not believe the fruit is all that prickly exactly. Once you cut it in half you can work your way through it. If you get hold of one use it in salads.

  3. They're a pain to eat too, unless you swallow the inner seeds. I think there are a couple of young pomegranate trees on the UN grounds - you're right, they look like they're on fire with all that rich red.

  4. Nar... Çiçeklerini en çok sevdigim meyvelerden biri... Hem de bereket sembolü...