The pomegranate is one of the oldest fruits but only recently has it become the super hero of the super foods. A small valley in southern Nevada has been growing these delicious ruby red jewels for generations. Moapa Valley consists of the towns of Overton and Logandale. Until the pomegranate's recent popularity, very few people had tasted or were familiar with the pomegranate. Since 2005, Moapa Valley began hosting the Pomegranate Art Festival. Pomegranate jelly, syrup, and juice are the focus of this festival. Artisans and craftsmen sell a variety of crafts and art. It's a wonderful event giving the pomegranate a weekend of fame and focus.
What is a Pomegranate?
While many people have tried pomegranate juice, many have not had the pleasure of eating the fruit fresh. The word pomegranate is from the Latin word "pom um granatum" and means "apple of many seeds." That is a pretty accurate description. They have a leathery skin of red or pink. They have a crown- like calyx on the bottom. The fruit is technically a berry. The seeds are encased in a juicy sac called an aril. The arils are in compartments separated by membranes and pith. Pomegranates range in size from 21/2 to 5 inches in diameter. There are sour and sweet varieties. The sweet pomegranates are pale pink and white while the sour pomegranates are a beautiful ruby red.
Pomegranates are easy to grow in the right climate. They do best in areas with dry, hot summers. Zone 8-10. They need high temperatures during fruiting to develop flavor. They are very long lived bushes. They require full sun. To maximize fruit production, avoid overcrowding bushes.
Pomegranates are a large bush from 12 to 16 feet tall. They sucker from the crown and have stiff and sometimes spiny branches. Very little pruning is necessary. Basically remove dead and damaged wood. They fruit on the tips of the branches.
They have minimal fertilizing requirements and are drought tolerant when established. Fertilizing in early spring with bone meal and compost are helpful for good fruit production. While drought tolerant, irrigating will benefit fruit production also.
Pomegranates are relatively free of most pests and diseases.
Health Benefits of Pomegranates
The powerful antioxidant, punicalagin, is what gives the pomegranates its fantastic health benefits. Antioxidants help guard against free radicals which cause oxidation resulting in tissue and organ damage. The pomegranate is also loaded with Vitamin C and other antioxidants.
Some health benefits of pomegranates:
- Builds immune system
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relieves inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain
- Inhibits platelet aggregations that many lead to heart attack, stroke, and embolisms
Pomegranates are ripe around 60 days after they bloom. The fruit matures in the heat of summer. They are ready to harvested in late October. Some say they are ripe when they have a metallic ring to them when tapped. Cut the fruit off the bush to avoid damage to the limbs.
Pomegranates can be eaten fresh. They are delicious. Score the leathery skin and break them apart. Pomegranate juice stains so do this over a bowl with an apron on. You can add a little cream or cool whip for a nice pomegranate salad. But honestly they are delicious fresh. They can also be added to any salad.
Pomegranates can also be juiced and the juice can be used fresh or added to other juices. You can drink the juice fresh without adding any sweetener for a healthy and delicious juice. The juice can also be used to make jelly and syrup.
|The lighter colored pomegranates are sweet and the dark red the sour variety.|
Juicing is a messy business and best done outside. My family used a neighbor's homemade juicer powered by a tractor. My husband is already figuring out how to make a cider press and pomegranate juicer powered by our backhoe. Sounds interesting! A heavy duty, metal citrus juicer works for a small scale juicing. It needs to be made of non-corrosive metal.
The juice my family did this year was a combination of sweet and sour pomegranates and was absolutely delicious. No sweetener is needed.
Pomegranate jelly is a favorite in our household. We always save some of the juice for a couple batches of jelly.