The History and Nutrition of the Tropical Fruit Pomegranate

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Ancient civilizations cherished pomegranates for their sweet pulp and medicinal properties. However, it is only in recent years that health studies have begun to reveal the nutritional benefit of the pomegranate as a super food.

When the Romans received pomegranate from the Phoenicians they named it Punica granatum. Punica was the Latin name for Phoenician and the name pomum granatum aptly described the fruit in Latin as 'fruit with many seeds'. Only the pomegranates pulp and seeds are edible; the thick white membrane and skin that surround the fruit pulp are inedible and make the pomegranate messy to eat without preparation.

Aside from the Phoenicians and Romans the pomegranate was cherished by the Ancient Egyptians who berried their dead with it. In Greek mythology pomegranate was considered a symbol of fertility and prosperity. The fruit is also mentioned in the Bible and by the prophet Mohammed who recommended followers eat pomegranate to purge themselves of hatred and resentment.

A large part of the fruits appeal, throughout its four thousand year history, could have been not only in the sweet-tangy flavor of its pulp but also in its bright red flower that turns into the pomegranate fruit. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty was said to have planted a pomegranate tree and in Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s nightingale serenades Juliet under a pomegranate tree in full bloom. Persian, Arab and Indian traders found the fruit to be a good traveler and cultivation spread from west Asia to the Mediterranean. The city of Granada in Spain was even named after the pomegranate by the Moorish kingdom.

The Nutritional Benefit of Pomegranate: The pomegranate was popular in the west up until the 19th century when it fell out of favor. This was probably because more favorable, easier to consume, fresh fruits were becoming available. People have always suspected that pomegranates were good for their health but its only recently that health studies have categorized pomegranates as a superfood.

Pomegranate and pomegranate juice is extremely nutritious, being rich in vitamins C, E and A. It is also a good source of potassium, iron and contains pantothenic acid and niacin. Moreover, the fruits vitamins are an excellent source of cancer and heart disease fighting phytochemicals, the effects of which are known popularly as antioxidants. Anthocyanins are phenols found in pomegranate that help neutralize free radicals, the dangerous cancer causing agents found in all of us. Anthocyanins also reduce inflammation and help protect blood vessels.

New Research: The thick skin of the pomegranate is considered inedible and even poisonous to some as it contains high levels of antimicrobials, which protect it from harmful bacteria. Researchers at London’s Kingston University headed by Professor Declan Naughton have discovered that a mixture of pomegranate rind, vitamin C and copper salts may help destroy strains of methicillin resident Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. The skin infection is often found in hospitals and treated with antibiotics, although the strains often become resident and continue to spread. Its thought the pomegranate rind mixture could be made into an ointment and used on patients open wounds to stop skin infections such as MRSA and others before they enter the blood stream.

The red blossom of the pomegranate tree usually precedes harvesting of the pomegrante by 5-7 months.  

All images from flickr.com with creative commons licence.

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lucia anna
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Posted on Dec 22, 2010
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