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November 12, 2013 > Pat Kites Garden Column: A pomegranate tale

Pat Kites Garden Column: A pomegranate tale

By Pat Kite

I bought a 6-inch pomegranate tree because I felt sorry for it. There it was, this leafy twig, almost lost among the pretty flowers on the discount store shelf. It called to me. ÒIf you donÕt take me home, nobody will water me, and I will die.Ó

Did I need another tree? Did I particularly like pomegranates? Having achieved seniorhood, would I even be around in 20 years to achieve a pomegranate? Gardeners will understand.

The 6-inch pomegranate ÒtreeÓ is now planted in my back yard. Eventually it will get to 15 feet tall and wide, but is easily pruned lesser. Insects tend to leave pomegranate trees alone. They can deal with a tad of drought. Our clay soil is tolerated well. Bright green leaves turn brilliant yellow before dropping in the fall. Coral-red flowers are lovely, attracting both hummingbirds and butterflies.

The reddish round fruits are quite pretty and stay on the tree for a while. The fruits contain juicy cranberry-red seeds that are edible, healthy and refrigeratorÐstore well. In case you have a small patio garden, there are now semi-dwarf pomegranates that only reach 6-feet high and a dwarf ÒNanaÓ reaching only 3-feet tall and good in pots. You can even experiment and try Nana in a very sunny window.

The Latin name of the pomegranate is Punica granatum, translating as ponum = apple and granatum = seed. The word ÒgrenadeÓ originated in France, specifically naming the explosive rounded shell with the seed-scattering characteristics of the pomegranate. Special military regiments in 1791, who first used grenades, were called Grenadiers. And if syrup is made from the seeds, it is grenadine.

Pomegranates probably originated in the Middle East, and some lore has them as the fruit given by Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Their history is 1000s of years old. There are many Biblical references, as Òand Saul tarriedÉ under a pomegranate tree ÉÓ [I Samuel 14.2]. Egyptian tombs contain pomegranate seeds. To the ancient Greeks the prolific seeds were symbols of fertility. At historical Oriental weddings, pomegranate seeds were scattered in the bedchamber of newlyweds, in hopes many children would bless the marriage. The scarlet color used in old Persian rugs comes from pomegranate juice. The first sherbet was pomegranate juice mixed with snow.

When I look at my tiny twig, which has so much history, somehow I envision a fantastic tree gleaming red in the sun. So for $2.95, I bought optimism. If the twig gets enough sun, some century I will get a pomegranate.

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