Pomegranate is a tropical fruit botanically known as Punica granatum. Pomegranate is a fruit which is increasing gaining popularity among horticulturists across the globe. The crop is believed to have originated in Iran (Morton, 1987). For the countries in the Mediterranean, the fruit is meant of very close cultural association…
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Interestingly in Europe and United States, the fruit is regarded more for its ornamental values more than its property as a fruit. However, increasing acknowledgement of the medicinal and horticultural value in other parts of the world will fetch popularity for this crop in Europe and United States as well. The derivation of the name Punica granatum is also interesting. Punica is the Roman name for the Carthage, an ancient Tunisian city (Morton, 1987). It is from this city the best quality pomegranates historically used to be exported to Italy. The common name for pomegranate in the United States is Seedy Apple. A very interesting connection with the name of the fruit is that the French version of its name ‘grenade’ refers to the ammunition, as both of these have similarities in their appearance. The importance of the crop The origin of the common names of pomegranate in Mediterranean explains the importance of the crop in this area. The origin of Arabic and Hebrew names of the fruit has the common root referring back to ‘fruit of paradise’ (Lansky et al, 2002). This suggests and confirms the appreciations for the crop in these cultures. The utility of the crop is varied in nature. The taste of the fruit is a unique blend of sweetness and sourness of the acidity. This makes it interesting in its culinary value. The fruit is used to add flavour to dishes like the Iranian dish, Fessenjan (Panthaky, 2006). Pomegranate is carried easily and provided to the early travellers of the desert a well-protected form of water. In religions like Zoroastrianism, this fruit is a symbol of both fertility and everlastingness; in other faiths like in the Old Testament of the Bible, it serves as an emblem of love and seduction (Panthaky, 2006). It has also been used to symbolize Aphrodite, the love goddess. Many Greek myths, ritualistic adornments and battle good luck charms centre around this sweet fruit – the pomegranate. Medicinal properties of the fruit All over the world the medicinal properties of the pomegranate plant are well established, it is for this reason that in the year 2005 alone 40 scientific journal publications were produced on this fruit (Schulman, 2006). In early 1550 BCE, it is studied that Egyptians used pomegranate root extracts to rid themselves of tapeworms. Hippocrates in 400 BCE is said to have used extracts from the fruit to treat a wide variety of ailments (Adams, 1849). Dioscorides in 90 BCE claimed that pomegranates were good for the stomach and recommended the use of its juice to treat ulcers, ear pain and nose infections. Different products of this plant have been boiled, dried, crushed, roasted and transformed in every way possible to treat illnesses like snakebite, leprosy, contraception, diarrhoea, bronchitis, mouth and throat inflammation, diabetes and haemorrhage (Lansky et al, 2002). Some of these treatments have found valid scientific backing while others still remain traditional wisdoms, having been passed down from generations. Probably because of its association with love and seduction, many cultures have considered the fruit a love potion. Prophet Mohammed endorses this view since he advises in the Quran, “Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred” (Gunter, 1934). Scientific research in the 21st century have shown that the juice of this fruit contains the highest content of antioxidants than any other food,
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