Beautiful jewel-like beads, called arils, bursting with a tart juice, pomegranates have a rich history steeped in symbolism.
Signifying beauty, love, marriage, fertility, birth, rebirth, hope, prosperity and eternity, pomegranates pop up in myths from Ancient Greece and Rome, through to biblical stories and even modern day rituals. In Ancient Rome, newlywed women wore crowns woven from pomegranate leaves, and the juice of pomegranates was used to cure infertility.
Ancient Iranian Christians believed pomegranates were the real forbidden fruit rather than the apple. Mohammed, the Muslim prophet, advised pregnant women to eat pomegranates, a symbol of beauty, so that they would bear beautiful children. And in the Quran, pomegranates grow in the Garden of Paradise and are referred to on multiple occasions as God’s good creation. In Greece, it is customary to bring a pomegranate as a gift to new homeowners, and traditional to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings and on New Year’s.
While limited local fruit are available in late summer, imported pomegranate arils are available almost all year round. These have been conveniently separated from their skin and pith, saving you this arduous and messy task.
Drop pomegranate seeds into champagne or sparkling cider for colour and flavour – and festiveness! They're good in iced tea, lemonade and cocktails too.
Pomegranate seeds go extremely well with olives; serve alongside on a platter or sprinkle black olive tapenade with a few pomegranate seeds for a fabulous tart-sweet-salty-bitter burst of flavours. Pomegranate seeds glisten like little rubies and dress up any salad. Just sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds in your favourite green salad. They work especially well with bitter leaves (rocket, witloof and endive) as well as apple, pear, fennel and asparagus.
The delightful tang of pomegranate seeds and their juice matches nicely with roasted or grilled meats of all sorts as well as creamy cheeses. Sprinkle over whipped feta or baked goat’s cheese.
The pomegranate tree towers above nine metres with a lifespan of 12-15 years, and flourishes in warm climates like Central Asia but is also grown in New Zealand. Most pomegranate trees found locally are grown from cuttings, and the majority of orchards can be found from the Bay of Plenty to Northland.
Pomegranates require a long, hot summer for the fruit to ripen sufficiently and be sweet and juicy. It should ripen six to seven months after flowering, which inches into our cooler parts of the year. Therefore, only during the warmest summers in the warmest regions will the pomegranates gave the possibility of their fruit ripening to gull sweetness and juiciness.