Plant science at your dinner table: pomegranates
Pomegranates are known as a “super fruit”. They are a delicious fruit with brilliant red edible arils. They grow on small trees or shrubs, growing 10-15 feet, where the climate is very hot and dry.
The botanical name for pomegranate is Punica granatum. The name pomegranate basically means “seeded apple”. The name, pomegranate, has a history as long as the fruit’s history and is woven into folklore from ancient history to the present. The pomegranate has been celebrated in mythical lore and is considered a present day “super food”.
The pomegranate is one of the oldest domesticated fruits recorded, with a documented history for more than 4,000 years. The pomegranate is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Many Biblical scholars debate that the pomegranate is the fruit from the “Tree of Life” in the Garden of Eden, rather than the apple.
It is believed pomegranates are native to Persia, modern day Iran. Pomegranates grow on trees or shrubs that are about 10 to 15 feet tall and where the climate is very hot and dry. The trees can live for over 200 years. They are beautiful and have shiny green foliage, crimson blossoms and an incredible yellow fall color.
Pomegranates are most widely available in the U.S. from September to December, but if you are lucky, you can find them available all year. In the U.S., California grows 99% of the pomegranates, followed by Texas and Arizona. Many people in the southern climates grow them in their gardens.
Michigan State University Extension has a few other fun facts about pomegranates:
- Pomegranates are native to the Middle East.
- Pomegranates are berries because their seeds are imbedded in the fruits’ flesh.
- Pomegranate trees grow in hot and dry climates.
- All pomegranates are self-pollinating.
- The edible part of the pomegranate is called an aril. It is the translucent ruby-colored flesh that surrounds the edible seed.
- Grenadine is made from the juice of pomegranates; it is used in flavorings and liqueurs.
- Pomegranates are considered a “super fruit” because of their high nutritional value, and they are packed full of antioxidants.
- Pomegranates are high in dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin K.
- Pomegranates can be stored up to two months in the refrigerator.
- In times past, the pomegranate blossom was crushed to make a red dye and the peel was used for dyeing leather.
Here is a great recipe for kids to try using two super foods: pomegranates and dark chocolate. Not only super foods, both pomegranates and are botanically classified as berries. This recipe is adapted from This Healthy Table.
Pomegranate Chocolate Bites
Start to finish: 20 minutes
2 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds
5.25 ounces (150 grams) high-quality dark chocolate (over 60% cacao)
1 tablespoon sea salt (optional)
- Across 24 mini muffin cups, sprinkle a single layer of pomegranate seeds.
- Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Check often to make sure it's not burning.
- Add the melted dark chocolate to piping bag or plastic bag. Snip off the end, so a small stream of chocolate can come out.
- Pipe a crisscross pattern of chocolate across the pomegranate seeds. Add another layer of pomegranate seeds, then more chocolate, and then the last layer of pomegranate seeds.
- Finish with a pinch of sea salt (optional) on each of the pomegranate chocolate bites.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. After removing from the fridge, serve immediately.