Thursday, September 23, 2010

History & Legend of the Pomegranate

The pomegranate is one of the earliest cultivated fruits. Historical evidence suggests that man first began planting pomegranate trees sometime between 4000 B.C.E and 3000 B.C.E.

Although Pomegranates grew in the wild before the dawn of agriculture, they were one of the first five domesticated crops along with olives, grapes, figs and dates. Believed to be first domesticated somewhere in northern Iran or Turkey, pomegranates still occur in the wild. However, the first archeological evidence of domesticated pomegranates isn't until around 3000 B.C. at Jericho.

Soon after their appearance at Jericho, they turned up in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Throughout history, this richly-colored and delicious fruit has been revered as a symbol of health, fertility, and rebirth. Some cultures also believed it held profound and mystical healing powers. Still others chose to use it in more practical ways, as a dye or decoration.

The pomegranate's irresistible appeal and legendary medicinal properties have also made it the subject of countless myths, epics and works of art, from Raphael and Cezanne to Homer and Shakespeare.

Many scholars now suggest that it was a pomegranate, not an apple, depicted in the biblical Garden of Eden; a theory that is given further support throughout ancient and medieval times. In the mythical tale of the unicorn, pomegranate seeds "bleeding" from its horn symbolized Christ. The pomegranate tree, to which it was bound, represented eternal life.

From the Encyclopedia

The Pomegranate is a handsome deciduous and somewhat thorny large shrub or small tree (Punica granatum) belonging to the family Punicaceae, native to semitropical Asia and naturalized in the Mediterranean region in very early times.

It has long been cultivated as an ornamental and for its edible fruit. The fruit, about the size of an apple, bears many seeds, each within a fleshy crimson seed coating, enclosed in a tough yellowish to deep red rind. Pomegranates are either eaten fresh or used for grenadine syrup, in which the juice of the acid fruit pulp is the chief ingredient. Grenadine syrup, sometimes made from red currants, is a flavoring for wines, cocktails, carbonated beverages, preserves, and confectionery. The astringent properties of the rind and bark have been valued medicinally for several thousand years, especially as a vermifuge.

The pomegranate is now cultivated in most warm climates, to a greater extent in the Old World than in America; in North America it is grown commercially chiefly from California and Arizona south into the tropics.

The fruit has long been a religious and artistic symbol. It is described in the most ancient of Asian literature. In the Old Testament, Solomon sang of an "orchard of pomegranates."

Because of its role in the Greek legend of Persephone, the pomegranate came to symbolize fertility, death, and eternity and was an emblem of the Eleusinian Mysteries. In Christian art, it is a symbol of hope. Pomegranates are classified in the divisionMagnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Myrtales, family Punicaceae.

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