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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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pomegranate Punica granatum, the fruit of a small tree which is native to Iran and still grows wild there. The trees are small; evergreen or deciduous according to climate; and very long lived. The seed is distributed by birds which eat the fruit.

The pomegranate was well known in ancient Egypt. The Israelites in the desert regretted the refreshing fruit they had left behind them, so that Moses found it necessary to assure them that they would find it again in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8: 8). The fruit was known to the ancient Greeks and is mentioned in Homer, but it seems to have reached the Romans more circuitously via Carthage (Punis) in N. Africa. They called it mala punica (Carthaginian apple), whence comes the generic name Punica. The species name granatum, the Spanish granada, and the name pomegranate itself all refer to the many ‘grains’ or seeds.