Foto Friday – Miraculous Pomegranates
It was at about 9:30 last night when I spilled the pomegranate seeds on the floor. While picking them up, one by one, I reflected first on the story of Demeter and Persephone, then on the fact that some Jewish schoolchildren are taught that there are 365 seeds in a pomegranate (the number of days in the year) while others are taught that there are 613 (the number of mitzvot or good deeds), and finally (it took some time collect them all) about the long-standing Jewish relationship with the pomegranate as a symbol of fertility and plenty. Well, it has a lot of seeds so you can see why that might be.
It’s hard to say where Judaism’s connection to this beautiful and fascinating fruit begins; some scholars believe is was the pomegranate, not the apple, that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden. It is mentioned often in the Bible both as a fruitand as a symbol and is one with the Seven Species celebrated at Sukkot.
What is for certain is that the pomegranate has been in this region for thousands of years. According to the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) site, “The pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and was cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times.” The pomegranate features prominently in this mosaic fruit basket from the Nabatean city of Mamshit.
Also from CRFG: “The pomegranate widely cultivated throughout India and the drier parts of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa, and was introduced into California by Spanish settlers in 1769.” In those days, pomegranates and their juice were valued as much for their medicinal properties as for their beauty, but in modern times they were for decades nothing more than a martini mixer or an exotic decorative item.
And then researchers like Dr. Ephraim Lansky, co-founder of Israel’s Rimonest came along, with proof — as reported by ISRAEL21c — of the pomegranate’s high anti-oxidant activity: “the stuff of potential anti-cancer therapies”.
Israel wasn’t the first country to produce pomegranates for commercial export but — as always — is an innovator. Israel was first, for example to give pomegranate juice an upgrade via wineries such as Azarad and Rimon, which produce varieties such as dessert wine, port style wine and dry wine, all the while touting the fruit’s antioxidant properties.
The rise in global interest for all things Punica granatum has resulted Israel’s doubling its pomegranate growing capacity, and the establishment of companies like Pomeg-Tech that provide expertise to those wishing to get into the pomegranate growing game. Here, in case you’ve never seen it, is a picture of the fruit’s flower:
Photo: Lior Almagor, Frommycamera.com
And Israeli pomegranate innovations don’t stop there: Shoham, inventors of a new gadget, the ART – Arils Removal Tool (that’s a pomegranate seed plucker to you and me), were recently awarded the 2010 Innovation Award at Fruit Logistica Berlin, one of the major events in the fresh produce industry. Here’s a picture of the happy Shoham team. An instructional video can be found on their website – and while it can’t prevent you from dropping the finished product on the floor, I can vouch that the ART actually does the job.