Fruit of the Month: Pomegranates
Summer is over and the fall harvest is about to begin. The first crop of the season is the antioxidant packed pomegranate! This amazing fruit is just starting to turn a brilliant red so keep a close watch and harvest while you can!
Background and History
The pomegranate is one of the oldest recorded fruits. It was mentioned in the Old Testament and was a large part of Egyptian ceremonies and food preparations. The pomegranate is a symbol of prosperity, abundance, fertility, bounty, and eternal life for many cultures. The name is derived from the French word “pomme garnete” meaning “seeded apple.”
The pomegranate is native from Iran and the Mediterranean areas of Asia, Africa and Europe. In 1769, Spanish settlers brought the pomegranate to California. Today, commercial pomegranate farms are located in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties.
Types and Characteristics
The pomegranate is an evergreen and deciduous shrub or small tree. The fruit is usually 2-5 inches wide with a prominent calyx at the base that resembles a crown. The rind is leathery and tough with hues of deep pink or red. The rind can discolor or turn brown and rough when exposed to too much sun. The interior is filled with seeds that are surrounded by juicy pulp. The seeds are embedded in a white membranous wall.
The tree reaches an average height of 12-16 feet high do well in containers. The branches are stiff and often spiny. The trees can live for a long time and some have been known to live for over 200 years.
Harvesting and Storage
The fruit ripens 6-7 months after flowering. The fruit is ready to harvest if it makes a metallic sound when tapped. Look for fruits that are heavy for their size. It is important to harvest the fruit right when it becomes ripe because the skin can crack open soon after. The skin is more susceptible to cracking when it rains. Do not hand pick the fruit but use garden shears to clop as close to the base of the fruit to remove the stem.
The fruit can store for a long time and the quality of the fruit actually improves in storage. Although the fruit does not ripen off the tree, the juice becomes sweeter the longer the fruit is stored. The fruit can keep up to 7 months in storage!
Propagating and Care
Pomegranates thrive in semi-arid temperatures and are drought tolerant once established. Pomegranates are susceptible to cold temperatures and the fruit can get damaged in a frost. It is recommended to prune when the tree is about 2 feet high. Prune to create an even and balanced tree that consists of 4-5 branches that are at least 1 foot from the ground. Remove all suckers. Fruit grows on the tips of new growth. Therefore, for the first 3 years prune the branches annually to encourage new shoots. After 3 years, only remove dead branches and suckers.
For more information visit: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pomegranate.html