PomegranatePOMEGRANATE – The History and Use of a Peculiar Fruit

Pomegranates are among the earliest types of fruit cultivated by humans, along with olives, figs, grapes, and dates. Yet despite this long history, they remain shrouded in mystery. Was the "forbidden fruit" that Eve used to tempt Adam astray actually a pomegranate? Does the name - which means "seeded apple" - reflect a real kinship between these two fruits? How do cultivated pomegranates differ from wild varieties? Why has one type of pomegranate conquered the globe, while another grows exclusively on Socotra, an island known as the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean"?

The pomegranate tree probably originated in the region south of the Caspian Sea, but became part of the agricultural tradition across a wide region that stretched from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean. At the same time, the fruit's rich associations - especially as a symbol of fertility - can be traced through the cultures of antiquity. Pomegranates continued to feature in art throughout the centuries, appearing in works such as Botticelli's The Virgin and Child with a Pomegranate and countless still lifes. Eventually, however, they were overshadowed by the citrus fruits, which are fragrant and somewhat easier to process.

This book examines the shifting meanings assigned to the pomegranate over time and offers a compact survey of a fascinating plant's cultural and natural history. This history is still evolving: today the pomegranate is often hailed as a "superfruit" thanks to the high levels of antidioxidants and other nutrients it contains. Pomegranates are now grown at locations around the world with sufficiently warm summers and mild winters. The book takes us to some of these places, including Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan, China, and Japan, where the pomegranate has special cultural significance. India also plays a role, since many experts in phytomedicine there are researching how different parts of the pomegranate tree affect the human body. This interest has a basis in tradition: pomegranate blossoms, bark, and roots have long played a role in ayurvedic medicine.

The text is accompanied by colorful, largely little-known illustrations from old botanical and medical publications (no copyright restrictions), along with some contemporary photos.


The book will first be published in German language in 2017.