The pomegranate, botanical name Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree in the family Lythraceae that grows between 5 and 8 m (16 and 26 ft) tall.
The fruit is typically in season in the Northern Hemisphere from September to February, and in the Southern Hemisphere from March to May. As intact arils or juice, pomegranates are used in baking, cooking, juice blends, meal garnishes, smoothies, and alcoholic beverages, such as cocktails and wine.
The pomegranate originated in the region of modern-day Iran, and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region and northern India. It was introduced into Spanish America in the late 16th century and California, by Spanish settlers, in 1769.
Today, it is widely cultivated throughout the Middle East and Caucasus region, north and tropical Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, the drier parts of southeast Asia, and parts of the Mediterranean Basin. It is also cultivated in parts of Arizona and California. In recent years, it has become more common in the commercial markets of Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
The name pomegranate derives from medieval Latin pōmum “apple” and grānātum “seeded”. Possibly stemming from the old French word for the fruit, pomme-grenade, the pomegranate was known in early English as “apple of Grenada”—a term which today survives only in heraldicblazons. This is a folk etymology, confusing the Latin granatus with the name of the Spanish city of Granada, which derives from Arabic.
Garnet derives from Old French grenat by metathesis, from Medieval Latin granatum as used in a different meaning “of a dark red color”. This derivation may have originated from pomum granatum, describing the color of pomegranate pulp, or from granum, referring to “red dye, cochineal”.
The French term for pomegranate, grenade, has given its name to the military grenade.
A shrub or small tree growing 6 to 10 m (20 to 33 ft) high, the pomegranate has multiple spiny branches and is extremely long-lived, with some specimens in France surviving for 200 years. P. granatum leaves are opposite or subopposite, glossy, narrow oblong, entire, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long and 2 cm broad. The flowers are bright red and 3 cm in diameter, with three to seven petals. Some fruitless varieties are grown for the flowers alone.
The edible fruit is a berry, intermediate in size between a lemon and a grapefruit, 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in) in diameter with a rounded shape and thick, reddish skin. The number of seeds in a pomegranate can vary from 200 to about 1400. Each seed has a surrounding water-laden pulp — the edible sarcotesta that forms from the seed coat — ranging in color from white to deep red or purple. The seeds are “exarillate”, i.e., unlike some other species in the order, Myrtales, no aril is present. The sarcotesta of pomegranate seeds consists of epidermis cells derived from the integument. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent membrane.
- granatumis grown for its fruit crop, and as ornamental treesand shrubs in parks and gardens. Mature specimens can develop sculptural twisted-bark multiple trunks and a distinctive overall form. Pomegranates are drought-tolerant, and can be grown in dry areas with either a Mediterranean winter rainfall climate or in summer rainfall climates. In wetter areas, they can be prone to root decay from fungal diseases. They can be tolerant of moderate frost, down to about −12 °C (10 °F).
Insect pests of the pomegranate can include the pomegranate butterfly Virachola isocrates and the leaf-footed bug Leptoglossus zonatus, and fruit flies and ants are attracted to unharvested ripe fruit. Pomegranate grows easily from seed, but is commonly propagated from 25 to 50 cm (9.8 to 19.7 in) hardwood cuttings to avoid the genetic variation of seedlings. Air layering is also an option for propagation, but grafting fails.