Earlier this year, the pomegranate became the unlikely focus of a controversy surrounding accusations of false advertising in the UK, when a juice company’s advert suggested that the fruit could help consumers ‘cheat death.’
But that aside, the so-called power fruit seems to have been widely embraced and heralded by cultures around the world for centuries for its culinary, health and even spiritual qualities.
In Asia-Pacific, pomegranate is currently cultivated in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India, Malaysia, and more arid regions in Southeast Asia. The fruit is harvested from a shrub or small tree and its juice tastes variably sweet and sour. Most of the kinds that I have tried have leaned towards the sour side, so I personally prefer my pomegranate in cocktails–when it’s less concentrated, the juice seems to add just the right tartness for my taste.
Lately though, there’s been a lot of international buzz about the merits of Indian Ayurveda medicine and what’s interesting is that within this form of ancient Eastern medical philosophy, the pomegranate has been used extensively as a cure and enhancer for thousands of years. All parts of the fruit, including the rind, seeds and juices are used separately or combined to remedy everything from diarrhoea and internal parasites to nose and gum bleeding. It has reportedly even been used in eye drops to treat cataracts. Pomegranate is high in Vitamins C and B5, potassium and polyphenols.
On the spiritual front, in Hinduism the pomegranate symbolizes prosperity and fertility, and is associated with prominent deities such as Lord Ganesha. In Japan, it’s also used in bonsai art and the juices are used in various countries for fabric dyeing. Currently at the Philadelphia Museum over in the United States there’s even a pomegranate-themed exhibit, examining the use of the fruit in textile art (‘An Enduring Motif: The Pomegranate in Textiles’). So despite some bad press this year, 1000 years of history suggests the pomegranate will be just fine.