An Overview: The Pomegranate, It's History, Industry And Many Health Benefits

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Known since ancient times and pre-history, the pomegranate fruit was almost neglected by western civilization. Yet, in recent years, the beautiful ruby red fruit is having a resurgence in popularity due in part to the interest in it’s long history, industry, and many health benefits. Popular once again, the ruby pomegranate fruit has now become fruit du jour in western culture and is enjoying a renaissance throughout. It has become the “jewel fruit” of the Middle East.

It has been speculated to be the original fruit of temptation in the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is considered to have existed just north of the present capital city of Baghdad. It is an ancient fruit long in history, industry, myth, symbol, art, religion and health benefits. Always an important part of Middle Eastern cuisines, there is a resurgence today in culinary circles, even in the West, due to it’s many health benefits. 

The pomegranate fruit was actually brought to China from Persia about 100 B.C. by Jang Qian, who also introduced coriander, walnuts, peas, cucumbers, alfalfa, grapes and caraway seeds to the Far East. The fruit eventually made its way to Italy via Carthage (Punic), hence the root of its Latin name, Punicum malum (apple). Romans later named the beautiful, ruby colored fruit, punic apple and due to the high amount of tannic acid in the skins, an industry developed: leather tanning. Many Italian Renaissance material importers used the ruby pattern of cut pomegranate fruit in their industry as well.

Used much earlier by the Pharaohs of Egypt, it gained distinction as a royal fruit. Chaucer, Shakespeare and Homer all praised the virtues of the fruit in literary history. The Moors brought the ruby seedy fruit to Spain round 800 A.D. Consequently, the city of Granada was named for the pomegranate fruit which became their national emblem.

The hand-tossed explosive, the grenade, was named by the French due to the seed-scattering properties of the pomegranate fruit. Later, the elite troops formed by the French military to throw the newly acquired grenades became known as grenadiers. Reaching American shores by way of the Spanish conquistadores, the fruit yet still has not reached the level of popularity in America as in the much of the world. It is cultivated and grown in the American West and South as an industry with some minor commercial success. (1)

Pomegranate Health Benefits and Properties

In history, for thousands of years, this ruby red fruit has been known in Arabian medicine for it’s healing qualities in treating stomach inflammation and heart pain. Many Middle Eastern, Asian and South American people chew the small pieces of the pomegranate fruit bark, petals and the peel. When rinsing with pomegranate juice, it helps them with such ailments such as dysentery, dental and periodontal diseases of the gums and mouth,

It’s health benefits are many. Sweet pomegranate juice is believed to be a good laxative. The tart variety, which is between both the sweet and sour varieties, is considered more valuable. Pomegranate juice which is also both sweet and tart, has antiseptic properties, and is used to alleviate fevers, as well as for healing cuts. Further health benefits of pomegranate juice are: astringent properties, treatment of colitis, diarrhea and dysentery. Pomegranate juice, also is a digestive and appetizer. Mixed with honey, it can alleviate nausea and vomiting. (2)

 Pomegranate Fruit Composition: it contains carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber and some vitamins and minerals. It can supply 40% of an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin C. It also has some vitamin B, folic acid and citric acid. Minerals include calcium, phosphorus and iron. Finally, it is extremely rich in antioxidants, perhaps nearing levels of the Cranberry.

Pomegranate Products and Industries:

There is a resurgence of the fruit’s commercial production throughout the world, especially in Afghanistan. In 2009, several hundred thousand pomegranate trees were planted and some leading botanists believe that Afghanistan is the cradle of world production. Afghanistan now has more varieties of the fruit than anywhere else in the world.

Other Industry has now sprung up from this beautiful ruby fruit, by the hundreds. Pomegranate juice, vodka, salad dressing, ice cream, salsa, lollipops and gummy bears – all have pomegranate or some derivative form of it as an ingredient. Pomegranate essence also is found in hair conditioning rinse or in skin cream and perfume. In the United States, production has now begun to spring up with as of yet, limited success. (3)

Rich in history, beauty, health benefits and culinary qualities, this fruit is truly the “jeweled fruit” of the Middle East.

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Sources:

(1) http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/pomehistory.htm

(2) http://www.theteamwork.com/articles/340-23-unique-healing-properties-pomegranate.html

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate

Authored by Beverly Anne Sanchez,  2010.

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