The place we’ve bought has two pomegranate trees, or more appropriately, bushes, which are beginning to bloom with the most beautiful blooms one can imagine. There were those in the early part of the 18th century who agreed with me that they are worth growing for their showy blooms even if one has no interest in the fruit, although I do actually. “…the beauty of the flower that is most to be considered…”.
That writer instructed methods of propagating them, including layering of pomegranates. “Take such a branch, prune it as much as you think convenient, and so, that what is to be laid in the ground may be quite clean; lay that Branch in a little trench or furrow made for it: fasten it down with a wooden hook, cover it with earth, and water it: After that stay six months before you examine it, then see whether it has taken sufficient root to be cut off from the trunk from whence it grows, and to be transplanted to the place you have design’d for it”.
There are numerous accounts regarding the healthful benefits of pomegranate flowers, bark, and juice throughout the 17th century and it is also found in Biblical writing, the works of Shakespeare, etc. The brilliant color of the blooms is so distinctive that “pomegranate” was used to describe the color as found in other aspects of nature.
In 1804, John Barrow recommended using pomegranate for a hedge, and as the limbs are thorny, it would likely be efficient at keeping out anyone or anything one desired to keep at a distance. It only took one attempt at pruning the bushes for me to develop a healthy respect for the thorns.
When grown in the U.S. it was first grown in the Gulf States and California although it can be found in many states today. The fruit was used to decorate banquet or home dinner tables, and mentioned in that regard in various magazines and Bulletins. The seeds and juice were used in salads, cocktails, punches, and “fancy dishes”.
The fruit kept well over long periods of time and home storage was thought to improve the flavor. Food writers warned against using iron utensils while making juice from the seed. The brilliant purplish-red juice was used to color a variety of foods. Apples and pears colored with pomegranate juice made them more visually appealing for salads.
The bark and flowers have been used to dye fabric, and the rind was used to make a dark black ink.
Let’s look at how the fruit was served in the early 19th century.
POMEGRANATE APPETIZER. Pomegranate seeds mixed with chopped filberts, with a bit of honey added, served in tiny blue-lined Chinese bowls make a stunning and delightful first course for a little dinner…
POMEGRANATE SHERBET. 3 ripe pomegranates; 1 quart water; 1 pound of sugar; the juice of 1 lemon; ½ teaspoonful of essence of vanilla; 3 drops of Cochineal [for color]. The pips of six or eight ripe pomegranates, pressed with a wooden spoon through a strainer, will produce a pint of juice. Make a syrup by boiling one quart of water and one pint of sugar. Add, when cooling, the pomegranate juice, a half teaspoonful of essence of vanilla, the juice of a lemon, and a few drops of Cochineal. [Make by the same method as ice cream.]
COMPOTE OF POMEGRANATE. 1 dozen pomegranates; ¾ pound of sugar; ½ cup of water; 1 Tablespoonful of orange juice. …carefully remove all the bright ruby pips, without bruising them. Throw these into a dish. Make a syrup, flavored with orange juice, pour it over them and serve.
POMEGRANATE JELLY. One pint pomegranate juice, 1 pint sugar, 5 tablespoons of commercial pectin. Remove pulp from fruit and put in kettle. Crush pulp with silver fork. Simmer slowly until the juice is extracted. If cooked too long the juice may evaporate. Strain and let stand a number of hours. Then add sugar and pectin and boil until it gives the usual jellying tests. This will be in about 15 minutes. Pectin may now be bought at most grocery stores…
Pomegranates are often found in salads or vegetable dishes today such as the roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts served in Bobby Flay’s Vegas restaurant. For a salad combine spinach leaves, walnuts, feta cheese, seeds from 1 pomegranate, and dressing of choice, preferably a vinaigrette. To mix it up, use any type greens or nuts, bean sprouts, pears, etc.
The fruit always reminds me of my uncle who adored it and always bought them in the fall when they could be found in the markets.
For centuries, pomegranate juice, alone, or mixed with other fruit juice has been appreciated by those suffering from fevers or who lived in hot climates. The juice has been made into wine since antiquity, often mixed with other fruit juice. Grenadine syrup was originally made from pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice and was, “much used in Europe”. By the 1920’s grenadine syrup no longer contained pomegranate in the U.S.
While I look forward to the fruit, the blooms have put on an awesome spectacle we have watched quite intently. As pretty as they are, they are just one of many plants I am enjoying on the property. Every time I see a new array of colorful blooms open up I think about the previous owner choosing them, planting and caring for them, and enjoying their annual burst of color just as I am now. As I walk around the yard admiring first one and then another, and transplanting some of my favorites from my previous garden, I can almost sense her doing the same. I’m blessed and honored to enjoy the fruits of her labor and to care for them during the coming years. The flowers are a delightful reminder that the home has known love and joy from the first day the Raines family moved into it which somehow carries over adding to the immense joy we get from it now.