Pomegranate botanically known as Punica granatum is a fruit bearing small tree growing between five and eight meters tall and mostly native to the Iranian plateau and the Himalayas mainly the north Pakistan and Northern India.
Since ancient times, the pomegranate had been cultivated in the Caucasus and today widely cultivated throughout the Middle Eastern countries, India, drier parts of south East Asia, Mediterranean region of southern Europe and tropical Africa. In 1769, it was introduced into Latin America and California by the Spanish settlers. Pomegranate is used for juice production and cultivated in parts of California and Arizona. The pomegranate fruit is typically in season from September to February in Northern Hemisphere and from March to May in Southern Hemisphere.
Pomegranate is a very ancient fruit mentioned in the Homeric Hymns and the Book of Exodus. Pomegranates prefer semi arid mild temperate to subtropical climate and are naturally adapted to regions with winters and hot summers. They are long lived. There are specimens in Europe that are known to be over 200 years of age. The vigor of a pomegranate declines after about 15 years, however. For excellent fruit, the pomegranates should be placed in the sunniest, warmest part of the yard or farm. The fruits improve in storage, becoming juicier and more flavorful. Pomegranates ripen between early August and late September. When the fruit reaches full color, pick one off and open it up. If there are fully-colored seeds and juice inside is sweet then it’s reached ripeness.
The juice can be used in a variety of ways as a fresh juice, make jellies, sorbets or cold or hot sauces as well as to flavor cakes baked apples etc. The juice can also be made into a wine and pomegranate fruit seeds can be used in making smoothies, added to fruit salad and mixed salads. In southern India, pomegranate seeds are added to curd rice to enhance sits sweetness.
The history of pomegranate goes way back to Greek mythology. The Greek myth tells the story of how Persephone is kidnapped by Hades. And she ate pomegranate seeds before her rescue. As a result, she has to spend a couple of months with Hades every year in the underworld. The myth explains that this is how winter came upon the earth. But the story of pomegranates has changed over the centuries. Now the hype is all about the health benefits the fruit provides. Pomegranates are rich in antioxidant power. Research has shown that this fruit has more antioxidants then other fruits and even red wine.
Pomegranates originated in the Middle East and are grown throughout the world. They are the size of large oranges, with reddish-pink leathery skin protecting a white membrane. Attached to this membrane are small seed sacs surrounded by a red pulp. Recent studies states that eating the pulp and consuming other pomegranate products contribute immensely to good health.
After opening the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. The desired and tasty part of the pomegranate fruit are the aril seeds. The pomegranate juice can be very sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate in taste. Pomegranate juice is a popular drink in Persian and Indian cuisine and widely distributed in the United States and Canada since 2002.
Grenadine is a thick and sweetened pomegranate juice extensively used in cocktails. The seeds of the fruit are used as a spice called anardana in India and Pakistan. The spice lends a tangy taste to the dish it is added to, and is often used when making chutneys or curries. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and also make an excellent garnish for various desserts. The fruit is also used to make liqueur and also used as ice cream toppings or are mixed with yoghurt or as jam on toast. Anardana is Hindi literally means anar+dana (pomegranate+seed) used as substitute for pomegranate syrup in Persian cuisine. These seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry preparation.
Pomegranates contain three times as many antioxidants as red wine and green tea. In fact, they contain the most antioxidants of any natural food. In addition to antioxidants, pomegranates contain an element that combats the enzyme that eats away at cartilage. This delays the onset of osteoarthritis. The fruit also contains anti-inflammatory qualities which would treat the disease after onset. Pomegranate has been extensively used as a source of traditional remedies for thousands of years in the ancient Ayurveda system of medicine in the Indian subcontinents.
The pomegranate fruit is rich in beneficial antioxidants, like polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins. The antioxidant level in pomegranate juice is higher than in other fruit juices, red wine or green tea. Pomegranate juice is also believed to increase blood flow to the heart, and is extremely beneficial for people with ischemic heart disease. It is also a good source of vitamins C and B nd potassium. The juice of the fruit also has antiviral and antibacterial effects against dental plaque
The nutritional values per 100 g of pomegranate (arils only) are:
Energy: 346 kJ (83 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 18.7 g
Sugars: 13.7 g
Dietary fiber: 4.0 g
Fat: 1.2 g
Protein: 1.7 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1): 0.07 mg
Riboflavin (Vit. B2): 0.05 mg
Niacin (Vit. B3): 0.29 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5): 0.38 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg
Folate (Vit. B9): 38 μg
Vitamin C: 10 mg
Calcium: 10 mg
Iron: 0.30 mg
Magnesium: 12 mg
Phosphorus: 36 mg
Potassium: 236 mg
Zinc: 0.35 mg