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Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.)


AlbanianShegë, Shega
Rumman, Roman
Aramaicܐܪܡܘܢ, ܪܘܡܢ
Erumman, Rumman, Rimmon
Noor, Nur
Bengaliআনার, ডালিম, বেদানা
Anar, Dalim, Bedana
安石榴 [ngōn sehk làu]
Ngon sehk lau
安石榴 [ān shí liú], 石榴 [shí liú]
An shi liu, Shi liu
Copticⲉⲣⲙⲁⲛ, ϩⲣⲙⲁⲛ, ϣϭⲗϭⲓⲗ
Erman, Herman, Sqelqil
CroatianŠipak, Nar
CzechGranátovník, Marhaník, Granátovník obecný, Granátové jablko
EstonianHarilik granaadipuu, Granaatõunaseemned
GaelicGràn ubhal
Brots’euli, Brotseuli, Broceuli
GreekΡοδιά, Ρόδι
Rodia, Rodi
Greek (Old)Ῥόα
Gujaratiદાડમ, દાડમ નો બી
Dadama; Dadama no bi (dried seeds)
Rimmon, Rimon
Hindiअनारदाना, अनार, दाड़िम
Anar, Darim; Anardana (dried seeds)
ザクロ, セキリュウ
Zakuro, Sekiryū, Sekiryu
KazakhАнар ағашы, Анар
Anar; Anar ağaşı (tree)
Seongnyu, Songnyu
Laoໝາກພິລາ, ກົກໝາກພິລາ
Kok mak phi la, Mak Pila
LatinMalum Punicum, Pumum granatum
LithuanianPaprastasis granatmedis
Malayalamമാതളം, മാതളനാരകം, മാദളംനാരകം
Mathalam, Mathalanarakam, Madhalanarangam
Manipuri (Meitei-Lon)কফোই
Marathiडाळींब, डाळींबाचे दाणे, अनारदाना
Dalimb (fresh fruit); Anardana, Dalimbache dane (dried seeds)
Naga (Angami)Touram
Naga (Ao)Jaram
Naga (Chakhesang-Chokri)Touralu
Naga (Khezha)Törache
Nepaliअनार, डारिम
Anar, Darim
Oriyaଡାଳିମ୍ବ, ଦାଳିମ୍ବ
PolishGranat; Granatowiec właściwy (tree)
PortugueseRomã; Romãzeira (tree)
RussianГранат, Гранатник
Granat, Granatnik
SanskritDarimba, Madhubiija
SantaliDalim, Anar
SerbianНара, Мограњ
Nara, Mogranj
SlovakGranátovník púnsky, Granátové jablko; Granátové semená (seeds)
SlovenianGranatno jabolko
SwahiliKomamanga, Kudhumani
Teluguదాడిమ పండు
Dadima pandu
Tap tim
Se ’bru, Sendru
TurkishNar, Rumman
Urduانار, اناردانا
Anar; Anardana
VietnameseLựu, Cây lựu
Luu, Cay luu
Punica granatum: Wild pomegranates, Jammu & Kashmir, NH 1A, km 82
Wild pomegranates, which are used as spice
Punica granatum: Wild form of pomegranate, J&K National Highway 1A, km 82
Wild pomegranate fruit, cracked by freezes about 2 months after ripening time

Punica granatum: Pomegranate fruit
Pomegranate fruit
Punica granatum: Dried pomegranate seeds
Dried pomegranate seeds
Punica granatum: Pomegranate grains
Fresh pomegranate seeds
Punica granatum: Ripe pomegranates
Ripe pomegranates

Used plant part

The interior of the pome­granate fruit is composed of many pink–red, succulent grains of pulp-like tissue, each of which contains a small seed. These grains are usually, slightly inaccurately, referred to as pome­granate seeds.

Dried pome­granate seeds stem from sour varieties with very small fruits; their seeds cannot be eaten raw.

The bark of the pome­granate tree may be used as a very strong laxans (purga­tive) in some folk-medical systems, but it has several serious side-effects.

Plant family

Punicaceae (pome­granate family).

Sensory quality

The seeds of culti­vated forms of pome­granate have a fresh, sweet–sour, very pleasant taste. Some strains actually taste honey-sweet, while others may display balanced sweetness and acidity; occasion­ally, one meets very acidic ones.

The spice is won from plants that belong to a wild form of pome­granate. Their seeds have an aggressively acidic and astringent taste. See Mango for a comparative discussion of sour spices.

Punica granatum: Pomegranate grains
Fresh pomegranate seeds
Main constituents

Fruit acids and sugar. Pomegranate seeds are also rich in Vitamin C. All plant parts contain astringent tannines, but the seeds of cultivated forms are free of tannines because of human selection.


Central Asia, probably Persia. Now cultivated in Western and Central Asia, Mediterranean countries and Northern India. In all that area, pomegranate trees are commonly found escaped into wilderness.

Punica granatum: Pomegranate fruit opened
Split-open pomegranate fruit

Pomegranate is a very pop­ular fruit all over the Middle East. Though it can't be proven defi­nitely, the fruit of the Tree of Knowl­edge (ets ha-daat [עֵץ הַדַּעַת]) men­tioned in the biblical history of creation most probably was meant to be a pome­granate — though most West­erners would hardly believe it, it’s no­where said to be an apple! Rather, the Hebrew text uses pəri [פְּרִי], an un­specific term meaning just fruit. There is also a parallel in Greek mytho­logy, where the earth goddess Demeter [Δημήτηρ] lost her daughter Perse­phone [Περσεφόνη] to the underworld god Hades [ᾍδης] because of one single pomegranate grain the daughter had accepted.

Punica granatum: Wild pomegranate bush
Wild form of pomegranate on thorny shub
Punica granatum: Undomesticated pomegranate
Almost mummyfied pomegranate (wild form)

The sweet cultivars of pome­granate are, thus, widely dis­tributed; the spice, however, is har­vested from small-fruited trees that are much closer to the wild form. Thy are grown in the Hima­layas, for example along the highway from Jammu to Srinagar in the Jammu & Kashmir state of India. The small trees or shubs bear long thorns and small fruits rarely exceeding 3 cm diameter; their seeds are very acidic and astringent. Those plants also yield herbal medicines and textile dyes.


The name pomegranate is of ancient origin. In classical Latin, the fruit was known either as malum punicum or malum granatum (also melogranatum). In these names, malum means apple, granatum derives from granum grain and means (multi)grained (alluding to the many seed grains). The adjective punicus properly refers to Phoenicia in Asia Minor, but was in Latin more frequently used with respect to Carthage, a Phoenician colony in Northern Africa (also Rome’s only source of Silphion); the Romans suspected pomegranate to be of African origin. The botanical genus name Punica is the feminine form of that adjective, as is appropriate for a fruit-bearing tree.

Punica granatum: Pomegranate flower
Pomegranate flower
Punica granatum: Flowering pomegranate shrub
Flowering pomegranate plant

Names of pome­granate in con­tem­porary West and Central Euro­pean tongues are adap­tations malum granatum, for example Italian melo­grano, which is a direct suc­cessor of the Latin term, or mil­groym [מילגרױם], a rare case of a Romance loan­word in Yiddish. In other lan­guages, the first part usual­ly gets trans­lated: Examples are German Granat­apfel, Icelandic granat­epli or Finnish granaatti­omena. The English name pome­granate has a similar structure, but con­tains Latin pomum fruit, apple (French pomme apple) instead of malum; the Old English term is cornappla grain-apple. In some languages, the apple-element is dropped completely, e. g., Ukrainian granat [ґранат] and Spanish granada.

In many European languages, the weapon shell has names similar to granate or grenade. These derive from the same Latin word granum grain: The reference is to the many fragments resulting from the detonation of a shell. Remarkably, also in Hebrew the word rimon [רימון] may mean both pomegranate fruit and shell. The underlying Semitic root, RMM, means high, exalted and does not refer to grainyness. The plant name is also found in Arabic (ar-rumman [الرمان]) and Coptic (erman [ⲉⲣⲙⲁⲛ]), but without the secondary shell meaning.

The Farsi name anar [انار] already existed in Middle Persian; many language from Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean have similar or identical names, which are probably direct or indirect Persian loans, e. g., Dhivehi annaaru [އަންނާރު], Punjabi and Kazakh anar [ਅਨਾਰ, анар], Armenian nur [նուր] and Turkish and Bulgarian nar [нар]. There might be a connection to ancient languages of Mesopotamia: Akkadian nurmû and Sumerian nur [𒉡𒌨] or nurma [𒉡𒌨𒈣]

Some of the Indian names of pomegranate contain an element sweet derived from the Proto-Indo–European root MEDʰU : Sanskrit madhubija [मधुबीज] and Tamil madulam [மாதுளம்]. See bear’s garlic and licorice for details.

Selected Links

Reisebericht von den Anardana-Plantagen in Kashmir Indian Spices: Pomegranate ( Pomegranate ( Sorting Punica names ( Pomegranate Bible Search ( Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon Greek – English – Greek Lexicon ( Biblical Plants ( Perseus Sculpture: The Berlin Goddess ( via Recipe: Khoresht fessenjan [خورشت فسنجان] (Chicken in pomegranate-walnut sauce) ( Recipe: Khoresht-e-fesenjan [خورشت فسنجان] (Chicken in pomegranate-walnut sauce) (

Punica granatum: Flower of pomegranate
Flower of pomegranate (ornamental breed with full flowers)
Punica granatum: Ripening pomegranate
Ripening pomegranate
The pome­granate tree is an ancient cultigen in Western Asia; it is mentioned in the oldest part of the Old Testament (the Penta­teuch). Although the Old Testament is not a collection of cooking recipes, it names many plants of everyday or cultic usage in ancient Israel; the New Testament, though, has less descriptive character, and plants are, consequently, named much less frequently.

If one wants to set up a collection of biblical spices, one must not forget that there are three millennia between the language of the Old Testament and ours; therefore, exact translations are sometimes impossible. The following quote (Isaiah 28,27) may illustrate the difficulties of translation:

כִּי לֹא בֶחָרוּץ יוּדַשׁ קֶצַח וְאֹופַן עֲגָלָה עַל־כַּמֹּן יוּסָּב כִּי בַמַּטֶּה יֵחָבֶט קֶצַח וְכַמֹּן בַּשָּׁבֶט׃

kî lô vẹḥārûṣ yûdạš qẹṣạḥ vəʾôfạn ʿăgālâ ʿạl-kạmmōn yûssāv kî vạmmạṭṭê yēḥāvẹṭ qẹṣạḥkạmmōn bạššāvẹṭ.

Ki lo vecharuts yudash qetsach vʿofan ʾagala ʾal-kammon yussav ki vammatte yechabet qetsach vekammon basshabet.

Qetsach is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over kammon; qetsach is beaten out with a rod, and kammon with a stick.

Because of the dialectic structure, we may infer that the two plants are similar enough to allow for comparison, but differ in the way how the seeds are harvested. The term kammon [כמן] is related to Greek kyminon [κύμινον] and English cumin, and obviously has the same meaning, as similar forms with the meaning cumin appear in a multitude of European languages (mostly originating from Greek via Latin); but note that also the name caraway comes from the same root. Qetsach [קצח] is more difficult to analyze. Probably it means nigella, sometimes also called black cumin, whose seeds ripen in a closed capsule, which must first be opened (this is also the Modern Hebrew meaning of the word).

Yet in translating the Bible, botanic accuracy is less an aim than general matters of style. Black cumin is less elegant than cumin, and nigella is not an English word at all. Therefore, English Bible translations render qetsach as dill, caraway or fitches, which is an old orthographic variety for vetch, a plant not edible at all (Vicia sativa). German translators, on the other hand, who don’t have a traditional, elegant word for cumin, commonly translate kammon as caraway (which is almost certainly wrong), and have to resort to dill for qetsach, which is even wronger.

Punica granatum: The Goddess of Berlin (Pergamon museum)
The goddess of Berlin ( century BC, Attica) holding a pomegranate fruit in her hand

Comparing dif­ferent trans­lations of the Old Testa­ment, one finds some or all of the follow­ing spices (Hebrew terms are given in fully vocalized writing): garlic (shum [שׁוּם], usually rendered in archaic spelling garlick), onion (betsel [בֶּצֶל]), nigella (qetsach [קֶצַח], also rendered as caraway or dill, quite obscure), cumin (kammon [כַּמֹּן], usually rendered in archaic spelling cummin but also trans­lated as caraway), coriander (gad [גַּד]), caper (abiyonah [אבִיוֹנָה], also translated desire), cinnamon (qinnamon [קִנָּמוֹן]), cassia (qiddah [קִדָּה] and qətsiʾah [קְצִיעָה], also interpreted as a synonym of cinnamon or cassia buds), hyssop (ezov [אֵזוֹב], frequent but very obscure), myrtle (hadas [הֲדַס]), olive (shemen [שֶׁמֶן] olive oil and zayith [זַיִת] olive berry; olive tree; very frequent), juniper (bərosh [בְּרוֹשׁ], also given as fir, cypress or pine), almond (shaqed [שָׁקֵד]), lemon (possibly citron but usually translated apple, tappuach [תַּפּוּחַ]), pomegranate (rimmon [רִמּוֹן]), bay (probably meaning just young tree, also rendered cedar, ezrach [אֶזְרָח]), rose (chavatstseleth [חֲבַצֶּלֶת], very obscure) and saffron (karkom [כַּרְכֹם]). Of these plants, only a few also appear also in the Quran; see ginger for a list of Koranic spices.

Similarly, the New Testament has not been translated by biologists — the latter would not have assumed that birds live in mustard plants (sinapi [σίναπι]). Other plant names from the New Testament include the following (original Greek given in parenthesis): mint (hedyosmon [ἡδύοσμον], this is not the common name of mint in Old Greek), cumin (kyminon [κύμινον], also translated caraway), anise (anethon [ἄνηθον], better rendered dill), lemon (thyinos [θύινος], possibly citron but uncertain), rue (peganon [πήγανον], probably a close relative is meant), cinnamon (kinnamomon [κιννάμωμον]), hyssop (hyssopos [ὕσσωπος], referring to the obscure word in the Old Testament) and olive (agrielaios [ἀγριέλαιος] olive tree, elaia [ἐλαία] olive fruit and elaion [ἔλαιον] olive oil). See also mugwort for linguistic notes on another plant mentioned in the New Testament, wormwood (apsinthos [ἄψινθος]).

Punica granatum: Pomegranate flower
Pomegranate flower
Punica granatum: Pomegranate shrub with flowers and fruits
Ripening pomegranates

Today, pome­granate seeds have culi­nary im­por­tance as a spice only in North­ern India, where they are dried and used as a fla­vouring. For this purpose, seeds of wild pome­granates are col­lected that are too sour to be eaten fresh. This spice fea­tures a subtle, sweet–sour and at the same time tart flavour which is most popular in the union states Punjab and Gujarat in India’s North­west. Pome­granate seeds are mostly used for vege­tables and legumes; some­times, they show up in Moghul-style non-vege­tarian food.

Gujarat’s cook­ery differs from all other regional cuisines of India by its marked preference for spicy and sweet combinations. Due to a sizable Jain minority and the influence of Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in the small city of Porbandar in central Gujarat, its inhabitants are generally strict vegetarians, stricter than in other North Indian states. Fiery vegetable curries with more than a simple hint of sweetness are often decorated with fresh pomegranate seeds as a contrasting garnish.

Grenadine is a reduced juice from fresh pomegranate seeds. It is common in Northern India not only for desserts, but also to marinate meat; due to its content of proteolytic enzymes, it acts as a meat tender­izer. Either as fresh-ex­tracted juice or in the more dur­able form of syrup (dibs ar-rumman [دبس الرمان]), pome­granates are a common souring agent in Western Asia and may be used, e. g., in the Turkish salad kısır made from precooked cracked wheat (bulgur), parsley and possibly raw vegetables. A similar product in Georgia is called masharabi [მაშარაბი]. Pomegranate concentrate is particularly common in Iran, where it suits the local preference for spicy yet sweet–fruity flavours; a famous example of its use is khoresht fessenjan [خورشت فسنجان], duck or chicken pieces braised in a thick sauce made of pomegranate and walnuts.

Lastly, dried pomegranate seeds make an interesting alternative for raisins in cakes and other European sweets.

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