Photo essay: The red fruit of September

The pomegranate has been used for religious and medicinal purposes since ancient times.

Pomegranates 521 (photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Pomegranates 521
(photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Our ancestors described the pomegranate as “an apple full of seeds.” The rich red fruit originally grew in Southwest Asia in the region that is now located between Turkey and Iran. Some 4,000 years ago, the pomegranate spread to the Middle East and across the Mediterranean and up through Spain and Morocco.
It later made its way to the East, and today it is also grown in North America, Japan and Russia.
The pomegranate is one of the Seven Species with which the Land of Israel was blessed. It was brought to Moses by the spies that he sent to explore the new land. It is a fruit that figures prominently in Judaism.
The pomegranate is mentioned many times in the Bible, silver pomegranate finials adorn Torah scrolls and the fruit is used as a symbol at the Rosh Hashana festive meal.
The sweet red seeds represent the many commandments required of the Jewish people. On average, there are 600 seeds in the pomegranate.
This number is very close to the 613 mitzvot that are prescribed for the Jews.
The beauty of the fruit itself has made it a popular shape, used extensively in designing coins, jewelry, garments, pottery and mosaics. And, according to legend, King Solomon fashioned his crown in the form a pomegranate.
Because of the fruit’s unique structure and bright red seeds, the Babylonians believed that chewing the seeds before a battle made a man invincible. Today, Christians throw pomegranate seeds on the floor of a new home for good luck; and in the Jewish world, the fruit is a symbol of wisdom and beauty.
In the late 1990s, scientific research revealed that the pomegranate was a powerful antioxidant, full of properties that help prevent illness and strengthen the immune system.
These discoveries have turned the pomegranate into an important and much-valued fruit.
Many farmers the world over are now growing the plant and making a substantial profit. With the rising popularity of healthful pomegranate juice, the demand for it is increasing. In recent years, people have been growing the pomegranate tree in their backyards, waiting for its flowers to blossom in the spring and its luscious red fruit to appear in the fall.