Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed
saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in
my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be
strong and beautiful through all the seasons.”
Excerpt from “The Pomegranate,” Kahlil Gibran
I just bought my first pomegranate of the fall and I am so grateful. This is the time of year for the jewel of autumn to once again grace our fruit bowls. Pomegranates are a fascinating fruit with a rich history whose name derives from the Middle French pomme garnete, or seeded apple.
According to the Pomegranate Council in Sonoma, CA (who knew?) pomegranates have been cherished for their exquisite beauty, flavor, color, and health benefits for centuries. From their distinctive crown to their ruby red arils, pomegranates are royalty amongst fruit. They are symbolic of prosperity and abundance in virtually every civilization.
Fortunately for us, this unique fruit has an abundance of juicy seeds to savor. Some sources fix the number of seeds to exactly 613, while others allow for an error of +/- 200 – a wide variance. I can tell you from experience, whether the number is 600 or 800, pomegranates have a lot of seeds. It takes time, a bowl of water, and a lot of patience to extract the flavorful gems from their web of spongy skin inside the husk. But, trust me, it is so worth it.
Pomegranate seeds are superfoods containing polyphenols, powerful antioxidants thought to offer heart health and anti-cancer benefits. Pomegranates are also a source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. There is some evidence that suggests pomegranates can protect from Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis, and aid in digestion.
Almost all of the world’s religions have recognized the pomegranate’s significance. The mythology of ancient Greece regarded this fruit as a symbol of life, marriage, and rebirth, and by eating a few pomegranate seeds, Persephone tied herself to Hades as a symbol of the indivisibility of marriage.
Pomegranates are highly symbolic in Jewish tradition, most often associated with fertility and good deeds, and were an integral part of this week’s Rosh Hashanah meals. By eating the pomegranate at Jewish New Year, it expresses a wish for a year filled with as many merits as a pomegranate has seeds. A beautiful sentiment.
Picking pomegranate seeds is a Thanksgiving tradition at my home. We make pomegranate prosecco aperitifs to celebrate my newest year on my Thanksgiving birthday. Watching the glistening seeds float gently to the top of the sparkling wine is enjoyable, and the added explosion of sweetness is the perfect pre-turkey treat. Take it from me (and Jenna and Kelsy), pomegranates make anything more festive. We enjoy them all throughout the holiday season.
When I placed a pomegranate in my shopping cart last weekend, I smiled to myself. Holding the jewel of autumn makes me anticipate our family being all together in a few short months. It symbolizes to me the joy of the upcoming holiday season. And, while I am not a fan of Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween (that is another story), the pomegranate is definitely a welcomed guest in the fruit aisle of the grocery store.
Looking regal atop the apples in my fruit bowl, pomegranates are a strong and beautiful symbol of love.
Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.