Phoenician apple keeps doctor away

Pomegranate juice is a popular anti-oxidant drink these days, so it’s good to know we can grow our own. Although they do best in areas with cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers, they are very hardy and will grow and fruit for us, too.

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) have been in cultivation throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East for millennia. The Romans knew the fruit as malus punicum, the Phoenician or Carthaginian apple. Carthage was a hated enemy of Rome, so I’m not quite sure if the Romans enjoyed or despised the fruit!

This shrubby small tree is deciduous and bears very attractive new foliage and flowers; there are plenty of varieties that have been selected purely for their decorative flowers. Make sure when buying that you are getting a grafted variety selected for fruit quality. Pomegranates grow easily from seed but the resulting trees are variable and you will have to wait longer for fruit.

Try to give them well-drained site in full sun. Air movement is essential to control fungal rots which tend to afflict the fruits – a couple of pre-emptive copper sprays while the fruit is growing will also help. This tree doesn’t need a lot of feeding so a once-a-year mulch with compost will do the trick. Water it well in the spring for the best flowering and fruiting.

Fruits can be eaten fresh, or juiced and turned into grenadine (pomegranate syrup). I find that the easiest way to extract the fleshy seed capsules is to pick the fruit and let it sit around until the skin is leathery. Cut in half, turn each half upside down and push down on the base with your thumbs while holding the edge of the rind with your fingertips. You should be able to turn it inside out, exposing all the cells, without any trouble.


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