Medieval Latin used terms “pomum” and “granatum” for pomegranate which meant “apple” and “seeded” respectively. Another implication attributed to “granatum” is “of a dark red color” which makes sense here completely. Middle French derived the word “pomme grenade” (seeded apple) from Latin. Later the word entered English as “pomegranate”.
However other cultures used different terms such as “shega” in Albanian and “roma” in Portuguese which is derived from Arabic ruman. Persian and Hindu/ Urdu apply the term “anaar” for the pomegranate.
Pomegranate is guessed to be “the tree of life”. In fact early artists painted pomegranate with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Qu’uran, the holy book of Islam, represents pomegranate as a fruit from paradise.
In “Odyssey”, Homer describes that pomegranate was part of the garden of Alcinous. Beautiful Helen of Troy drank pomegranate juice for healthiness and used it to rouge her cheeks and lips. In Greek myth of Persephone, Hades (the god of underworld) tricks Persephone (daughter of Zeus) by feeding her sweet pomegranate pulp and makes her his wife. Persephone has to stay 4months of each year in underworld. During this period the earth is asleep and cold, what we call winter. The remaining 8months Persephone is free on earth and it is warm, flowers and trees blossom and plants grow. That is why pomegranate is a symbol of the cycle of life and death in Greece.
According to Jewish customs, 613 seeds of pomegranate represent the 613 commandments in Torah. The fruit has been mentioned six times in the songs of Solomon. It is woven in high priest’s robes and is carved on the temples’ pillars. Pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, sanctity and abundance in Judaism.
Egyptians were familiar with pomegranate before Moses. A dry pomegranate has been found in the tomb of Djehuty, the butler of queen Hatshepsut.
In buddhism, pomegranate is a blessed fruit and in ancient texts of Hindu philosophy it is a symbol of fertility and prosperity.
In Chinese culture, pomegranate is a sign of abundance, passion, fertility and happiness while it represents resurrection and eternal life in Christine art.
History of Pomegranate Use and Cultivation
Pomegranate was native in Persia and was thrived in drier areas of Arizona and California. It was also known in middle east, Indus valley, India and ancient Baghdad. An anonymous Andalusian cook book from 13th century has been found which mentioned pomegranate as an ingredient for some foods. The fruit entered China during the Hun and Sung dynasties either through route of silk road or brough by sea traders. Romans imported pomegranate from African Libya. In Afghanistan, Kandahar was famous for it’s pomegranate. Korea and Japan grew pomegranate specially as bonsai, because of the plant’s strange shape of bark and beautiful flowers.
Ancient city of Granada in Spain was renamed after pomegranate entered it during the Moorish period. Later Spanish conquistadors introduced the fruit to Caribbean islands and Latin America. European were introduced by Sicily, but since they preferred meat-based diet did not accept it for a long time. It was used in England since Elizabeth, not as food but it’s decoration.