When pomegranates come into season, my senses are filled with rubicund joy as the world is made more beautiful by this luxurious jewel-like fruit that offers up seeds of scarlet sweet juiciness with just a hint of astringency to titillate the palate. Not only is the pomegranate a visual and gustatory treasure from Nature, but it also confers powerful health benefits that are off the charts.
Pomegranates in Mythology and Romance
But before I share with you the salutary aspects of this amazing red fruit, let us wander into the ethereal realm of mythology and romance.
There are many who believe that Eve tempted Adam, not with the scholarly apple, but with the turgid pulsating redness of a pomegranate. This theory may very well be true as the location of the Garden of Eden, around the valleys surrounding the Tigris-Euphrates River, is indeed one of the places where pomegranates first emerged into our botanical consciousness.
In time, man cultivated the pomegranate far and wide, and many ancient cultures have developed mythical tales which have served to increase the romance and popularity of the fruit.
In Iran, where around 600,000 tons of the fruit are produced each year, pomegranates symbolize love and fertility. The legendary Persian hero, Isfandiyar, ate pomegrantes regularly and was invincible in battle. The Persians also believe that eating pomegrantes aligns one with the energy of the sun, especially during the winter solstice.
Pomegranates also feature prominantly in other cultures. In Judaism, it is a symbol of fertility and righteousness. It is one of the symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashana.
Participants pray, that their merits will increase like the numerous seeds of the pomegranate.
In Christianity, it symbolizes resurrection and everlasting life.
And for the Chinese, who regard the color red as good luck, and value male babies; pomegranates symbolizes prosperity, fecundity, and having many male offsprings.
And perhaps the best known tale from antiquity featuring our brilliant red fruit is from the Greeks.
Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, had a beautiful daughter named Persephone. While Demeter was away from her domain, Hades, the lord of the Underworld cast his desires on the comely Persephone and abducted her while she was picking flowers. When Demeter returned and found out that her beloved daughter had been kidnapped, she immediate went in search, but could not find her. The deity of agriculture became so upset, that she refused to provide the world with her gift of harvest, and so fields laid barren and a severe famine ensued. The mighty gods on Mt. Olympus had to intervene as people were dying from the famine. They promised to rescue Persephone, and sent Hermes, the official emissary between Heaven and Hell, to negotiate with Hades. Hermes’ diplomacy was a success, and the god of the Underworld reluctantly complied.
However, while Persephone was on her way back to Earth, Hades tempted her with seeds from the pomegranate. She was immediately attracted to the crystalline ruby sparkles, and being rather hungry from her travails, ate the seeds. Unfortunately, she did not knowing that whomever ate or drank anything from the Underworld was doomed to remain there.
In her case, a compromised was made, and Persephone had to spend part of the year with Hades.
It is thus that we have the different seasons. Since Persephone is also the goddess of Spring, in her absence, the botanical world lies dormant until her return. Persephone’s powerful mother, Demeter, also affects the seasons. While Persephone is with her, things are sunny and blooming (Spring/Summer), but while her daughter is away in the dark reaches of the Underworld, Demeter becomes sad, and forlorn (Autumn/Winter).
Pomegranates and Health Benefits
Perhaps Hades’ amorous pursuit of Persephone was spurred on by his regular intake of pomegranates? A rather spurious supposition, you may chuckle to yourself, but one that is substantiated by scientific research. In a recent study done by the Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, volunteers who drank one glass of pomegranate juice daily for two weeks showed an increase in *testosterone,a decrease in blood pressure, while their moods were elevated.
Specifically, pomegranates contain several robust antioxidants, including
ellagitannin (aka: punicalagins) that squelch free-radicals. This is also good news for cancer prevention.
So, pomegranates are good for romance, your heart, and overall health.
*Testosterone is needed by both men and women for a healthy sex drive, heart health, and energy.
How to Open a Pomegranate
How the heck do you open and de-seed a pomegranate? Well, there are a ton of videos on the web, most of which show immersing the cut fruit in a bowl of water. But why would you want to do that as it will dilute the flavor! Besides, I really don’t think the beautiful ruby seeds like to be drowned.
Watch my video, and learn the proper (and easy) way!
Then, do visit me again in the next post for more fascinating factoids on pomegranates and two yummy, heart warming recipes!
For Love of Food and Friends,
Furhman, Joel, MD., “Secrets Revealed: The Powerful Heart Benefits of the Pomegranate”,
Rosick, Edward, MD., “Why Aging Women Need Testosterone”, LE Magazine. April, 2004.
Tsang et al. “Pomegranate juice consumption influences urinary glucocorticoids, attenuates blood pressure and exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy volunteers”, Society for Endocrinology, Endocrine Abstracts, April 12, 2011.