Pomegranate HistoryThe pomegranate, a Persian native, is one of the oldest fruits known to man. Originally thought to be native to China, pomegranates were actually brought to China about 100 B.C. by Han dynasty representative, Jang Qian, who also introduced coriander, walnuts, peas, cucumbers, alfalfa, grapes and caraway seeds to the Far East.
The Romans called it the Punic apple. The pomegranate made its way to Italy via Carthage (Punic), and therein lies the root of its Latin name, Punicum malum (apple). Its current botanical name is Punicum granatum with Punicum recognizing Carthage as a focal point for pomegranate cultivation and granatum referring to the many seeds or grains in the fruit.
Many Italian Renaissance fabrics boasted the pattern of cut pomegranates. Ancient Romans not only enjoyed the succulent flesh of this fruit. Due to the high amount of tannic acid in the skins, they also used the skins in the process of tanning leather. Perhaps due to the fruit's princely blossom crown, it has gained distinction as a royal fruit. Chaucer, Shakespeare and Homer have all extolled the virtues of the pomegranate in literature.
It was the Moors who brought the seedy fruit to Spain round 800 A.D. Granada was named for the pomegranate, which became their national emblem. The first pomegranate planted in Britain was done by none other than King Henry VIII.
The French named their hand-tossed explosive a grenade after the seed-scattering properties of the pomegranate fruit. And in 1791, the special troops formed by the French military to wield these grenades were called grenadiers.
Although not documented, the deep red color of the pomegranate pips may have also given rise to the naming of the garnet gemstone.
The pomegranate reached American shores by way of the Spanish conquistadors. The fruit still has not reached the level of popularity in America as it enjoys in the Mid-East, Europe and the Far East, perhaps because of its plenitude of seeds. It is grown in the American West and South with some minor commercial success. Those home cooks lucky enough to have a tree in their yard expound the virtues of this fruit as a casual crop.
More about Pomegranates: Pomegranate Cooking Tips and Measures
Pomegranate Selection and Storage
Pomegranate Peeling and Juicing
Are pomegranate seeds edible? FAQ
Pomegranate Legend and Lore
Pomegranate Photo © 2006 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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