Pomegranates: a delicious symbol of luck and health

Passing through the fruit market on an October afternoon, one can feel and smell the changing seasons, as the fragile melons and peaches of summer disappear, yielding their place to heartier fruits. Among the bins of apples, tangerines, and late-season pears, baskets of pomegranates are carefully arranged, promising a new palate of warming flavors and slow-cooked foods.

Grown throughout the temperate climates, and prized for its flavor and health properties, pomegranates have been cultivated for millennia. The trees are notoriously hearty and can flourish in poor soils with harsh weather conditions. The leathery skin and crown-shaped stem hide a maze of jewel-like seeds, bursting with juice that is alternately tart and sweet. Pomegranates are rich in vitamins C, A and E, iron, potassium and antioxidant polyphenols. Recently pomegranate-extract has been featured in a variety of consumer care products, including lip balms and facial scrubs, and the juice has found its way into everything from cocktails to marinades. 

Pomegranates appear in many religious parables, and decorate temples and places of worship in Hindu, Judaism, Buddhist, Islamic and Christian traditions. Mythologically, the pomegranate is perhaps most famous as the fruit that binds Persephone, daughter of Demeter, to the underworld for the winter months. Reading the myth one can understand the symbolism – fertility, birth, death and rebirth – that is associated with the changing seasons and vegetation. Pomegranates are given as gifts to symbolize good fortune and good health – beyond the actual fruit, decorative objects in any style or material can be found in most shops and homes.

If your only exposure to pomegranates has been via grenadine syrup, it may be time to try one. A little patience, and a careful cut through the skin reveals a shining mass of ruby seeds. One word of caution – all those antioxidants will stain your fingers, so if you don’t want to be spotted as a pomegranate devotee, think about wearing kitchen gloves. Split your pomegranate open slowly, and separate the seeds from the yellow-colored membranes. The cool juice will surprise you with its clean taste, and the seeds tickle your mouth as you chew them. Good health and good luck awaits!