Thursday, 18 December 2014 15:03

How do Pomegranates grow?

The pomegranate tree is extremely long-lived with some specimens over 200 years old.

  • Latin Name:

    Punica granatum

     

  • Growth:

    USDA Hardiness Zone 8 - 10

    Click here to view the USDA Hardiness Zone Map

    The pomegranate is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree that grows between 16 to 26 feet tall. The tree produces showy orange flowers and an edible fruit in the form of a large berry with thick red skin. It is prized for the jewel-like seeds that reside inside the fruit’s skin. The seeds are surrounded by a juicy, fleshy layer called the sarcotesta. In most pomegranate varieties, the sarcotesta is a deep ruby red, though it may vary from white to deep purple. The number of seeds in a pomegranate varies from 200 up to 1,400.

    The pomegranate tree is extremely long-lived with some specimens over 200 years old. In the northern hemisphere, the fruit is in season from September through February.

     

     

  • Propagation:

    Hardwood cuttings are the most widely-used method of pomegranate propagation. They bear fruit in approximately three years.

    Pomegranates may also be propagated by seed, but this method is not recommended because these seeds are not true to type, meaning that plants grown from seed have unpredictable traits, including poor quality fruit in some cases.

     

  • Harvest:

    In the northern hemisphere, pomegranate harvest generally takes place in the early fall, usually beginning in September. A good way to estimate when pomegranates are ready to harvest is by watching the flowers, which bloom approximately 6 months prior to the harvest date.

    To tell when a pomegranate is ready for harvest, the points of the crown on the bottom of the fruit turn inward toward the body and the antennae-looking plant tendrils called calyx turn brown and begin to wither. Tapping on the fruit sounds hollow, like a fingernail rapping on a metal pot. 

    Pomegranates should not be pulled from the tree. Instead, they are cut at the base of the fruit in order to reduce damage to the tree.

     

     

  • Storage:

    Pomegranates stored at room temperature last 1 to 2 weeks. If refrigerated, they can be stored up to two months.

    Pomegranate seeds stay fresh in the freezer up to one year. Seeds are scooped out, placed on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. Once seeds are fully frozen, they are transferred to an airtight plastic container and returned to the freezer.

  • History:

    The pomegranate tree is native to the East, from Iran to the northern Himalayas. Based on excavations from a Neolithic settlement in Greece dating back to 6000 BCE, pomegranates are considered to be one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. Their seeds have also been found in Jericho, dating back to the Bronze Age (3000 BCE) and in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, including King Tut. In the ancient world, pomegranates were eaten, used in dyes, as a juice tonic to kill parasites, and revered as a sacred fruit.

    In Biblical history, there is speculation that the infamous “Forbidden Fruit” in the Garden of Eden, in the story of Adam and Eve, was in fact a pomegranate. It was depicted as a symbol of eternal life, fertility, and strength in Persian culture, and considered one of the “three blessed fruits” in Buddhist art.

    In medieval Europe, the pomegranate was a sign of nobility, and included on several coats of arms. The fruit spread to the New World via the early Spanish conquistadors in North and South America. Cortez planted pomegranate trees in Mexico after conquering the Aztecs in the 1500s, and it is thought that Ponce de Leon brought pomegranate seeds to St. Augustine, the first North American settlement.

    Thomas Jefferson planted pomegranate trees at Monticello in the 1770s, but pomegranates did not become a popular fruit in the United States until the new millennium. Today, they are highly regarded for their outstanding antioxidant benefits.

     

  • Top Producers:

    Iran ranks as the top producer and exporter of pomegranates with an estimated annual production of 670,000 tons. Other top producers include Turkey, India, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco and Spain.

     

     

  • Varieties:

    There are several varieties of pomegranate that range in color, size, growing season and cold hardiness. Top varieties include: Peco, Sal, Texas Red, Wonderful, Granada and Ambrosia.

     

  • Products:

    Pomegranate seeds are hailed for their “superfood” antioxidant benefits, and are most commonly eaten fresh or sold as pomegranate juice. Fresh pomegranate seeds are used in salads or desserts, or simply eaten on their own as snacks. They are also sometimes used in jams, syrups and natural food dyes.

    Cosmetically, pomegranate is also hailed for its skin benefits and is used in anti-aging creams, skin moisturizers, and hair nourishment products.

     

  • Top Health Benefits:

    In North America, pomegranates are sometimes referred to as the “jewel of winter” because they are a rare treat only available for a few months during wintertime. Nutritionally, the fruit offers antioxidant benefits that trump superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, and green tea. Stock up on this superfood for a wintry treat and an antioxidant boost during cold and flu season!

    Punicalagin is a phenolic compound found in pomegranates that promotes cardiovascular health and is thought to be the major component of the fruit’s antioxidant benefits. Punicalagin helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as increasing the reduction of atherosclerotic plaque (that causes heart blockage).

    The antioxidant properties found in pomegranates are reported to fight against a variety of cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancer. They have been shown to inhibit cell proliferation and invasion, and to promote cancer cell death. Some studies reported that pomegranate juice reduces the blood supply to tumors, inhibiting their growth and in some cases reducing their size.

    Antioxidants found in pomegranates reduce the inflammation causing cartilage destruction in the joints, and may even block the production of cartilage-destructive enzymes. By reducing joint inflammation, pomegranate may help reduce joint pain in osteoarthritis sufferers.

    Pomegranates contain high levels of vitamin K, which contributes to bone health. The enzyme inhibitors in pomegranate juice help protect the health of bones and cartilage.

    Pomegranate juice helps the digestive system secrete enzymes that protect against diarrhea, nausea, intestinal parasites, hemorrhoids, and other conditions related to digestion.

    Pomegranates promote skin health by encouraging skin cell regeneration, preventing hyperpigmentation, stimulating elastin and collagen growth, and protecting the skin from damage from free radicals.

    Pomegranates include phytochemical compounds that stimulate serotonin receptors, improving symptoms of depression.

     

  • Grow it yourself:

    1.   Using pruning shears, take a 10 to 15 inch cutting that is ¼ to ½ inches in diameter from a healthy tree at the end of winter, just before the threat of the last frost passes. The cuttings should be taken from the previous year’s growth in the form of shoots or suckers.

    2.   Strip the leaves from the cuttings, except for the topmost buds. Wrap in damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator until ready to plant.

    3.   Plant cuttings in a well-drained loam or sandy-loam area with good sunlight, making sure that the top node is visible above the soil line. If planting multiple cuttings of a shrub variety, space them 3 to 9 feet apart. If planting a tree variety, place at least 16 feet apart.

    4.   Water the cuttings liberally (approximately two inches per square foot), once a week for the first few weeks until they are established, then once every three weeks.

    5.   Fertilize young pomegranate trees in the spring with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer during their first two seasons and add two inches of mulch around the tree each year.

    To encourage fruit growth, prune branches back by ⅓ of their length each year during the first three years of development.