PomegranateThe pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing to between five and eight meters tall. The pomegranate is native to Southwest Asia and has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times. It is widely cultivated throughout Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, India, Israel, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, the drier parts of southeast Asia, Peninsular Malaysia, the East Indies, and tropical Africa. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona for juice production.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to February. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is in season from March to May.
About 760 different local varieties of pomogranate have been reconized in Iran. These varieties have been collected in Agricultural Research Institute, Yazd, Iran. The most famous varieties are Soveh, Sioh, Rabob, Aghaei, Ardestony, Shisheh cap, Shirin Shahvor, Bajestony, Malas e Daneh Siah, Touq Gardan, Khazar, Shecar e Ashraf (Behshahr), Alak, Arous, Farouq, Rahab, Khafar e Shiraz, Ferdous e Khorasan, Bi daneh Sangan.
The name "pomegranate” derives from Latin pomum ("apple”) and granatus ("seeded”). This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (e.g., German Granatapfel, seeded apple). In early English, the Pomegranate was known as "apple of Grenada” — a term which today survives only in heraldic blazons. This was probably a folk etymology, confusing Latin granatus with the Spanish city of Granada. The genus name Punica is named for the Phoenicians, who were active in broadening its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. In classical Latin, where "malum” was broadly applied to many apple-like fruits, the pomegranate’s name was malum punicum or malum granatum, the latter giving rise to the Italian name melograno, or less commonly melagrana.
A widespread root for "pomegranate” comes from the Ancient Egyptian rmn, from which derive the Hebrew rimmôn, and Arabic rummân. This root was given by Arabs to other languages, including Portuguese (romã), Kabyle rrumman and Maltese "rummien”. The pomegranate (‘rimmôn’) is mentioned in the Bible as one of the seven fruits/plants that Israel was blessed with, and in Hebrew, ‘rimmôn’ is also the name of the weapon now called the grenade. According to Webster’s New Spanish-English Dictionary, "granada,” the Spanish word for "pomegranate,” could also mean "grenade.” According to the OED, the word "grenade” originated about 1532 from the French name for the pomegranate, la grenade. La grenade also gives us the word grenadine, the name of a kind of fruit syrup, originally made from pomegranates, which is widely used as a cordial and in cocktails.
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. Separating the red arils is simplified by performing this task in a bowl of water, wherein arils sink and pulp floats. It is also possible to freeze the whole fruit in the freezer, making the red arils easy to separate from the white pulp membranes. The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. The taste differs depending on subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness. The pomegranate juice can be very sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate in taste, with sour notes from the acidic tannins contained in the aril juice.
Having begun wide distribution in the United States and Canada in 2002, pomegranate juice has long been a popular drink in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, India.
Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice used in cocktail mixing. Before tomato arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Iranian foods and is still found in traditional recipes such as fesenjan, a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, usually spooned over duck or other poultry and rice, and in ash-e anar (pomegranate soup).
Wild pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice known as anardana (which literally means pomegranate (anar) seeds (dana) in Persian), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine but also as a replacement for pomegranate syrup in Middle Eastern cuisine. As a result of this, the dried whole seeds can often be obtained in ethnic Indian Sub-continent markets. The seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry production. Seeds may also be ground in order to avoid becoming stuck in teeth when eating dishes containing them. Seeds of the wild pomegranate daru from the Himalayas are regarded as quality sources for this spice.
Making pomegranate juice at a stall in TurkeyIn the Caucasus, pomegranate is used mainly as juice. In Azerbaijan a sauce from pomegranate juice (narsharab) is usually served with fish or tika kabab. In Turkey, pomegranate sauce, (Turkish: nar ekşisi) is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and sometimes as garnish for desserts such as güllaç. Pomegranate syrup or molasses is used in muhammara, a roasted red pepper, walnut, and garlic spread popular in Syria and Turkey. Pomegranate wine is produced in Israel and Armenia.
In Greece, pomegranate (Greek: ρόδι, rodi) is used in many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, legume salad with wheat and pomegranate, traditional Middle Eastern lamb kebabs with pomegranate glaze, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur and popular fruit confectionery used as ice cream topping or mixed with yogurt or spread as jam on toast. In Cyprus as well as in Greece and among the Greek Orthodox Diaspora , ρόδι is used to make kolliva, a mixture of wheat, pomegranate seeds, sugar, almonds and other seeds served at memorial services.
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