Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pomegranate - ancient, sacred fruit

Pomegranate - ancient, sacred fruit     
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Two common varieties of pomegranate locally called granada or grenade for the shape and interior of the fruit; the flower is popularly the design of royal crowns in ancient times, which is still popular today.
The pomegranate, botanical name Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing between 5–8 meters tall. The pomegranate is widely considered to have originated in Iran and has been cultivated since ancient times.                                                                                                                            Wikipedia
remember the pomegranate trees dad planted around the house.  The bright red flowers resembled a royal crown that breaks the dull landscape, especially in summer.  The fruits dangle almost to the ground we children can pick when ripe.  

The fully ripe fruit easily cracks and spill some seeds like a grenade, a botanical phenomenon called dehiscence.  It is for this, together with the shape of the fruit that the plant earned its name.  Oh, how we kids loved to eat the fleshy seeds, then force them out when spent like blowgun and start a war as ancient as the history of the plant itself. 

Pomegranate is a very old crop probably first domesticated in Persia, modern day Iran. From there it spread throughout the Middle East, then to Asia, the Americas, and to other tropical countries.  

But it was the Greeks who treasured its myth. To them, it was pomegranate that caused the seasons. In a shortened version, Hades, god of the underworld, kidnapped Persephone to be his wife, and to keep her from returning to her mourning mother on earth, he deceived her into eating six seeds of the sacred but fatal fruit. In her deep sorrow Persephone's mother, Demeter ceased in giving life to earth for six months which represents the dry season, and were it not for the intervention of Zeus, the earth would have been totally lifeless the whole year.

The ancient Greeks regarded pomegranate as the "fruit of the dead," and to appease the gods, gave importance to it at weddings and funerals. It is traditional to them to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings and on New Year. Pomegranate decors abound their homes and buildings. To this day we can find their influence to art through Renaissance Europe, finding its way to the Philippines during the 400-year Spanish colonization.

There are other myths associated with pomegranate. The ancient Egyptians regarded the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity and ambition. Goddess Hera is sometimes represented offering the pomegranate. Even among Christians, the pomegranate is regarded as sacred, symbolized by Mary and her child Jesus holding a pomegranate. In many 

countries it is a practice that when one buys a new home, it is conventional for a house guest to bring as a first gift a pomegranate, which is placed at the home altar, as a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck.

 Pomegranate in the hands of Madonna and Child

Pomegranate was the symbol of fertility in ancient Persian culture. In Persian Mythology, Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and becomes invincible. In the Greco-Persian Wars, Herodotus the Greek historian, mentions golden pomegranates adorning the spears of warriors in the phalanx. Even in today's Iran, pomegranate may imply love and fertility.
Iran produces pomegranates as a common crop. Its juice and paste have a role in some Iranian cuisines, e.g. chicken, ghormas and refreshment bars. Pomegranate skins may be used to stain wool and silk in the carpet industry. Pomegranate Festival is an annual cultural and artistic festival held during October in Tehran to exhibit and sell pomegranates, food products and handicraft.

To the Chinese pomegranate is a symbol of long life and fertility 

In some Hindu traditions, the pomegranate (hindi: Beejapuram, literally: replete with seeds) symbolizes prosperity and fertility. So with the Chinese. 

But what made pomegranate popular worldwide?
Medical science found its many benefits to health that it is virtually an elixir, a panacea. First, let’s take a cursory look at its nutritional value

Nutrition Facts of Pomegranate per 100 grams

  • Calories 83 % Daily Value*
  • Total Fat 1.2 g 1%
  • Saturated fat 0.1 g 0%
  • Polyunsaturated fat 0.1 g
  • Monounsaturated fat 0.1 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
  • Sodium 3 mg 0%
  • Potassium 236 mg 6%
  • Total Carbohydrate 19 g 6%
  • Dietary fiber 4 g 16%
  • Sugar 14 g
  • Protein 1.7 g 3%
  • Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 17%
  • Calcium 1% Iron 1%
  • Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 5%
  • Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 3%
*Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. FeedbackSources include: USDA

Metabolites of pomegranate juice ellagitannins (urolithins) localize specifically in the prostate gland, colon, and intestinal tissues of mice, leading to clinical studies of pomegranate juice or fruit extracts for efficacy against several diseases.

In 2013, 44 clinical trials were registered with the National Institutes of Health to examine effects of pomegranate extracts or juice consumption on a variety of human disorders, including:

·         prostate cancer
·         prostatic hyperplasia
·         diabetes
·         lymphoma
·         rhinovirus infection
·         common cold
·         oxidative stress in diabetic hemodialysis
·         atherosclerosis
·         coronary artery disease
·         infant brain injury
·         hemodialysis for kidney disease
·         male infertility
·         aging
·         memory
·         pregnancy complications
·         osteoporosis
·         erectile dysfunction

Reference: Wikipedia, other Internet sources, Living with Nature Series, AVR

Among the recommended fruits we should include to popularize in the Philippines - among the common fruits on the backyard and in the market - is pomegranate. Lately we came to realize its importance to senior citizens, especially those taking maintenance medicine.  Its medicinal and nutritive properties indeed makes it worthy to be elevated as “sacred” as the Greeks and other cultures held for centuries - and up to the present.  

Our pomegranate trees at home stood the test of time in the absence of caretakers. We left for our studies Manila, and when dad died, the backyard gave way to other plants.                                   
Lately my wife brought home a big pomegranate (first photo, top). “I will plant the seeds,” I said, remembering the beautiful pomegranate trees of my childhood at home in San Vicente (IS). I waited for the seeds to germinate. After almost a month one seed germinated. To me it is new hope for the young generation. I proudly showed it to my children and grandchildren and related a long story that actually started with the ancient Greeks. ~

Seedling of pomegranate - ancient and sacred, elixir and secret of long life.
Pomegranate is used in cooking, baking, juices, smoothies and alcoholic beverages, such as martinis and wine.

The rind of the fruit and the bark of the pomegranate tree is used as a traditional remedy against diarrhea, dysentery and intestinal parasites. The seeds and juice are considered a tonic for the heart and throat, and classified as having bitter-astringent taste plus a range of taste from sweet to sour, depending on ripeness. Thus Pomegranate is considered a healthful counterbalance to a diet high in sweet-fatty (kapha or earth) components.


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