Ah, the pomegranate – what an extraordinary gift of nature. How can we pay homage to this noble fruit, so rich in legend and lore? The ancient Egyptians buried them with their dead. The Babylonians believed that chewing pomegranate seeds before battle made them invincible, while according to Jewish tradition, the pomegranate’s crown-shaped calyx served as the original design for the crowns of kings and queens.
One of civilization’s oldest fruits, the pomegranate with its voluptuous round shape, tempting red color, and jewel-like seeds is treasured for its tart, refreshing flavor and outstanding health properties. Cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region since ancient times, its symbolism has been celebrated in religion and mythology since the beginning of time.
History of the Pomegranate
The pomegranate, a theme in art and literature for more than 5000 years, is mentioned in Greek mythology, the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran. It figures in Chinese porcelains, Turkish textiles, Italian paintings, Norwegian coverlets, Spanish chests, and Mexican embroideries. Buddhists consider the pomegranate as blessed, and use it in their art to represent the essence of favorable influences.
Even after thousands of years, the pomegranate remains exhilarating and magical. Western literature is rife with pomegranate references—from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (the nightingale that “sings on yon pomegranate tree”) to Ogden Nash (“the hardest fruit upon this planet”). Artists as diverse as Caravaggio, Botticelli and John Singer Sargent have been sufficiently charmed by the pomegranate to include it in many of their works.
“Your cheeks are like a slice of pomegranate, from behind your veil.” (Song of Songs 6:7)
Symbolisms of the Pomegranate
Throughout history and in almost every religion, the pomegranate has served as a symbol of humanity's most fundamental beliefs and desires. Almost every aspect of the pomegranate has taken on a symbolic function—shape, color, seeds, and juice.
For the ancient Egyptians, the pomegranate represented fertility and was used in mythology and art as well as in a diversity of foods.
One of the earliest allusions to the pomegranate is the Greek myth of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. After mistakenly eating pomegranate seeds, Persephone was condemned to spend part of each year in the underworld. In her daughter’s absence, her despairing mother permitted nothing to grow, thus creating the changing seasons.
In early Christian doctrine, the scores of pomegranate seeds symbolized the followers of the church who came together through their belief. In Christian art, the fruit often appears as a symbol of resurrection.
In Jewish tradition, the pomegranate is often used as an ornamental theme on the Torah scroll and its coverings—in fact, the ornaments adorning the Torah scroll are known by the Hebrew word for pomegranate. The Bible cites the pomegranate as one of the seven plants characterizing the fertile land of Israel. A folk tradition holds that the ripe pomegranate contains 613 seeds, equivalent to the number of commandments in the Five Books of Moses.
The Talmud suggests that Eve was tempted with a pomegranate in the Garden of Eden, not an apple as is commonly believed.
Health & Nutrition
It is good to know that when you eat a pomegranate, you're consuming one of the oldest, healthiest fruits in the world. Whether you drink its juice, eat its seeds, or use it in concentrated form, the health benefits of the pomegranate are remarkable.
Pomegranates contain about five grams of fiber per serving and are fat free. Pomegranate juice contains three times more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, or other fruits, which makes it a powerful tool for lowering cholesterol and preventing heart attacks and strokes. The pomegranate is also thought to lower blood pressure, help kidney disorders, and inhibit many types of cancer. More scientific research is being conducted on the health benefits of the pomegranate than on almost any other fruit.
Pomegranates belong to a class of strong anti-oxidants known as punicalagins, which also includes raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries—all highly valued for their key health benefits
“That King Solomon had made for the Temple of God…altogether there were one hundred pomegranates all around the netting.” (Jeremiah 52:23)
The British Medical Association and other physician specialty groups use the pomegranate in their coat of arms due to its association with life, fertility and regeneration
Ancient Egyptians, including King Tut, were buried with pomegranates in their tombs as a symbol of rebirth.
Use pomegranate juice as a substitute for vinaigrette salad dressing. Garnish a vegetable salad with a handful of delicious pomegranate seeds, or use the bright red seeds to add color to a fruit salad or platter.
Warning! Pomegranate juice stains clothing permanently unless washed with bleach.
The shape and size of the pomegranate (la granada in Spanish) are why it gave its name to the hand grenade.
“Your arid fields are as a pomegranate orchard with luscious fruit, henna and spikenard.” (Song of Songs 4:13)