Click to enlargePomegranate

The Legendary Pomegranate

Punica granatum. Pomegranates—the fruit of fertility, forbidden desires and felicity—have been part of human history since people painted themselves red with its juice at the dawn of civilization. The photo at left (courtesy of John Thurm) shows a pomegranate tree in full ripeness at the Temple of Aphrodite in Cyprus. The genus name Punica is the old name for the ancient city of Carthage. According to Greek myth the first pomegranate tree was born in the blood of Side, the wife of Orion, who jumped off a cliff when she was tricked into thinking she had killed her children.

Today’s world has more prosaic concerns, such as the health benefits of the juice and seeds. Pomegranate juice has more than twice the amount of antioxidants found in grape juice, green tea or red wine and reduces hardening of the arteries. The alkaloids of the pomegranate have the unique ability to paralyze tapeworms and that’s enough about that topic. The bark in particular is biologically active and is antibacterial as well as antiviral.

Pomegranates are arching deciduous shrubs, about 15’ tall in suitable climates. You can prune them into a tree if desired. They need hot summers for good fruit development and moderate winters for survival (to 15 degrees F). A south or west wall helps the fruit ripen. Full sun, low water requirements, although regular and deep watering helps fruit development . Can take alkaline soil. Pomegranates are also resistant to honey fungus, good news for Northern California gardeners fighting this dread soil-borne disease. Self-fertile, summer flowering on tips of current season’s growth. Fruit ripens in fall. Plants are 1’ tall in 1 gal containers. Expect flowering and fruit within a year.

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