MANILA, Philippines - A popular plant during Christmas is the Pomegranate. Locally known as the Granada, it's got beautiful bright red flowers and fruits. Scientifically, it's called the Punica granatum, a small fruit-bearing deciduous woody shrub or tree that can grow up to eight meters tall.
The name "pomegranate" is derived from the medieval Latin word pomum, meaning "apple" and granatum, meaning "seeded." The species epithet granatum came from the old French word grenat, meaning "garnet," which comes from the medieval Latin word granatum. The latter is an adjective, meaning "having deep, red color." This best describes the color of the plant's arils or seed casings.
The Pomegranate is native to Iran and has been cultivated since ancient times. It was then introduced to Asia and has been cultivated in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, northern India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Egypt, China, Burma, the drier areas of Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean region of southern Europe and tropical Africa. It was also introduced to Latin America and California by Spanish settlers.
The plant is valued for its fruits, medicinal properties and as an ornamental or garden plant. In Asian countries, it is used as a material for bonsai.
Its flowers are bright red, about three centimeters in diameter, with four to five petals. The edible fruit is a berry and is about five to 12 centimeters in diameter with a rounded hexagonal shape and thick reddish skin. There are about 200 to 1,400 seeds in each fruit, with each seed surrounded by a water-laden pulp, also known as the edible aril. It comes in white, deep red or purple. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent pulp.
The Pomegranate is easy to grow. It can survive droughts and warm tropical climates. It thrives under full sunlight and would grow optimally if provided with sufficient irrigation, fertilization and planted in fertile soil. In wetter areas, it can be prone to root decay caused by fungal diseases. The plant can also tolerate frost or temperatures as low −10 °C (14 °F). It's prone to attacks by insect pests like the butterfly Virachola isocrates and the leaf-footed bug Leptoglossus zonatus.
The arils are edible and the fruit can be made into juice, sweets or syrup. It's also used as a spice for Pakistani and Indian cuisine. The arils are also used in salads and as an ingredient in various meals. The plant's medicinal properties are sourced from a lot of its parts. For instance, the rind of its fruit, as well as its bark, are used as a traditional remedy against diarrhea, dysentery and intestinal parasites. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), potassium and polyphenols, such as tannins, flavonoids, and a good source of dietary fiber.
Since the fruit contains so many seeds, the Pomegranate symbolizes prosperity and fertility. Thus it plays a pivotal role in some cultures during Christmas and the New Year