Pomegranate Seeds

Botanical Nam: Punica granatum

Family: Punicaceae

Hindi Name: Anardana

Pomegranate is native to central Asia, especially Iran, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. It is now cultivated in west and central Asia, Mediterranean countries and India. In India it is found growing wild in the warm valleys and outer hills of the Himalayas.

Pomegranate is very popular fruit all over the Middle East. The pomegranate tree is an ancient cultigen in Western Asia. It is mentioned in the oldest part of the Old Testament-the Pentateuch. There is a story in Greek mythology where the earth goddess, Demeter, lost her daughter, Persephone, to the underworld god, Hades, because of one single pomegranate seed that the daughter had accepted.

The name 'pomegranate'is of ancient origin. In classical Latin, the fruit was known either as Malum punicum or Malum granatum. In these names malum means 'apple', granatum is derived from granum 'grain' ,and means 'multi-grained'. The adjective punicus refers to Phoenicia in Asia Minor, but in Latin it is more frequently used with respect to Carthage, a Phoenican colony in North Africa. The Romans suspected pomegranate to be of African origin. The botanical genus name Punica is the feminine form of the adjective, appropriate for a fruit-bearing tree.

The pomegranate is an erect deciduous spreading shrub or tree, 8-10 metres high. It is woody, stern and thorny, with the girth of the main stem being 48-70 cm. The wood is very hard and light yellow. While the leaves are about 6 cm long and the flowers grow in clusters. The colour of the flower is claret pink, each flower having six petals. The seeds are angular, with a fleshy aril that constitutes the edible part, and are red to pinkish white in colour.

One of the important centres of wild pomegranate in Himachal pradesh is Darlaghat, which literally means a pass or place of wild pomegranate trees.

The composition of the fresh edible portion of pomegranate is as follows:

  • Moisture:78 %
  • Protein: 1.6 %
  • Fat: 0.1 %
  • Fibre: 5.1 %
  • Carbohydrates: 14.5 %
  • Minerals: 0.7 %
  • Calcium: 10 mg /100g
  • Magnesium: 12 mg /100g
  • Oxalic acid: 14 mg /100g
  • Phosphorus: 70 mg /100g
  • Sodium: 0.9 mg /100g
  • Potassium: 133 mg /100g
  • Copper: 0.2 mg /100g
  • Thiamine:0.00 6mg /100g
  • Riboflavin:0.1 mg /100g
  • Nicotinic Acid:0.3 mg /100g
  • Vit C: 14 mg /100g

The acidity and pectin content of the fruit juice is 5.53 and 0.06 per cent, respectively. Pomegranate seeds have, today, culinary importance as a spice only in North India, where they are dried and used as a flavouring. This spice features a subtle, sweet, sour and tarty flavour which is most popular in the cuisines of Punjab and Gujarat.

Pomegranate seeds are mostly used for vegetables and legumes. Sometimes, they are also used in the Mughlai-style non-vegetarian food. In Gujarat, the Jain community have fiery vegetable curries with more than a simple hint of sweetness, decorated on top with pomegranate seeds.

The juice from fresh pomegranate seeds is used not only for desserts, but also to marinate meat, as the proteolytic enzymes act as meat-tenderiser. It is also used as a souring agent in West Asian cuisines, like the Turkish salad kisir.

Dried pomegranate seeds make an interesting alternative for raisins in cakes and other European sweets. The juice of the fruit can also be used to make a very good squash. The bark of the tree may be used as a very strong purgative, though it has side-effects. The juice of the fresh leaves and young fruits is useful in dysentery and diarrhoea.

The dried rind yields a fast yellow dye, which is used for dying cloth, and for making hair-dye. The fruit rind is also used in combination with synthetic tannins for tanning leather. The root bark can be used for tanning and dyeing leather, and for making jet-black ink. The wood of the tree, being very hard and durable, is generally used in making agricultural implements.

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