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The Pomegranate

Tree of modest size, cultivated for thousands of years in the Mediterranean area; in reality it is a plant native to the Middle East and southern Asia, from where the Arab populations brought it to Greece and Rome. The Latin name evokes the Carthaginian world, as the Romans learned to cultivate the pomegranate from the Punic populations (ie Carthaginians) who lived in present-day Tunisia.
Pomegranates produce a slightly imposing stem, covered by a bark that tends to flake off, of a gray-brown color; the roots are taproots that tend to spread on the ground, producing numerous vigorous suckers. In fruit varieties we tend to contain the number of suckers, to raise the sapling plant, and thus obtain larger fruits; single-stem plants are quite branched and have a beautiful hair that is not too wide.
The flowering varieties are instead often cultivated allowing the suckers to develop freely, thus giving rise to a large, enlarged shrub with a disordered and dense appearance.
Generally the pomegranates do not exceed 5-6 meters in height.
The foliage is of small dimensions, oval, sometimes almost linear, of orange yellow color just popped up, it becomes light green with the passing of the weeks.
Pomegranates are deciduous plants, and the foliage is produced in late spring, therefore the plants remain bare for many months during the cold period of the year; in summer they produce very showy flowers, orange-red, with a fleshy and rigid calyx enclosing the petals; there are varieties with white, pink or striped flowers, or very large ones.
The flowers are followed by large berries, called balaustas, which contain the small seeds, in very large numbers.

Pomegranate characteristics

The pomegranate is a medium-sized shrub or small tree with a rounded shape. The largest varieties reach 5 meters in height and 3 in diameter. In optimal conditions it is among the most long-lived fruit trees, given that it can easily exceed 200 years of life.
The branches, endowed with thorns, remain bare until mid-spring when the leaves emerge, simple and opposite, with an oblong shape with a slightly wavy edge. At the beginning of the season they are bright green to turn golden in autumn.
The bark is very decorative: the contrast between the branches and the trunk (silver) and the new, reddish jets is in fact very attractive. The flowers, which may be more or less double depending on the variety, appear from May to September. They have a leathery calyx that supports 5 to 7 oval petals and slightly curled on the edge, in colors from red to pale yellow. Once fallen, the tuft of stamens remains, also very ornamental.
The fruits, of great beauty, ripen between autumn and winter. They are composed of a tough yellow or dark red skin containing a myriad of red, translucent seeds with a sweet or sour taste.

Origins and history

This fruit is native to Asia. The most reliable hypotheses indicate it as endemic to the Middle East or northern India.
In Italy he arrived thanks to the Romans who knew him in the North of Africa, particularly during the Punic wars, hence his Latin name "Punica Granatum".

In the Mediterranean area the pomegranate is a fruit plant that does not give any kind of problem from the cultural point of view; once pruned the plant to a shrub or tree development, we will obtain a vigorous and healthy pomegranate, which will withstand the summer heat, the winter cold, the drought typical of the hot months.It is planted in a very well drained soil, even stony and poor, to favor the development of the root system of a young specimen, it is advisable to work the soil deeply before placing it at home, possibly adding fresh soil and little fertilizer natural.We undoubtedly choose a very bright and sunny position, as a pomegranate placed in the shade will produce few flowers and will tend over the years to deteriorate beyond repair.Pomegranates endure winter temperatures close to -10 ° C, although a small plant that has recently settled down may need protection from a non-woven fabric cloth in the case of very intense frosts.These plants bear drought very well, and fear water stagnation; if we have recently placed our home, our pomegranate water it sporadically, avoiding watering if the soil is still wet, or if rainfall is abundant.The plants that have been planted for a long time tend not to require any care, except for a light pruning in late winter to remove any branches damaged by the weather; in the cultivated plants for the fruits it can happen to have to remove a large part of the latter, leaving only some, to get bigger berriesTHE POMEGRANATE IN BRIEFFamily, genus, species Lythraceae, punica granatumType of plant Shrub or small tree, from flower and / or fruitFoliage frailHeight at maturity From 30 cm to 5 mMaximum width 3 mMaintenance Easy, not demandingGrowth From normal to slowPropagation Seed, cutting, grafting, pollen removal, layeringRusticitа Medium rustic, up to -15 ° but protectedWater needs AverageExposure Full sunSoil Not demanding, better if slightly limestoneSoil moisture Well drainedUse Fruit-bearing, isolated shrub, shrubbery, hedge, in large potsThe pomegranates, or melegranate, are very particular fruits, different from any other fruit that can be found on the table; they are berries, called botanical balauste.In practice it is a leathery and very bitter and astringent peel completely full of small seeds; each seed is enclosed in a ruby-colored flesh, more or less sweet depending on the variety of pomegranate that we have placed at home.The seeds are grouped by thin yellow or off-white membranes, which are as bitter and astringent as the skin.Generally speaking, the flower varieties produce low quality fruits, while the fruit varieties produce very large and sweet fruits and non-particular flowers.The particular shape of the pomegranate makes it difficult for industrial use, in fact it is a fruit that is consumed in a cumbersome way: to be able to eat the peel, which is strictly cohesive to the seeds, it is necessary to break the hard and elastic skin, extract the small seeds removing each piece of thin membrane that encloses them, then savor the peel by sucking the seeds and then spitting them out.The presence of a peel and thin membranes containing a high percentage of tannins, and therefore bitter and astringent, makes it difficult even to squeeze these fruits, to obtain the juice.Industrially we proceed by breaking the fruit into pieces and throwing them into the water, taking advantage of the fact that the seeds sink and the skins float.Despite these precautions, the pomegranate is little used by the canning industry, and is generally consumed mostly fresh and raw.Anyone who has had the good fortune to taste a pomegranate, matured on a sweet fruit pomegranate, knows that the flavor of the pulp is intense and aromatic; in addition to this the pomegranate pulp is rich in vitamin C.With a lot of patience and care it is possible to squeeze the pulp and get pomegranate juice, used for refreshing drinks and for preserves and compotes, both used as jams, used to accompany savory dishes, such as aged cheeses.In herbal medicine the bark of the balustrades is used, rich in tannins, and the peel of the roots, with which decoctions are prepared for the most external use, in case of irritations, and as astringent products.The pomegranate in a vase

The pomegranate can also be grown in pots, in particular the dwarf varieties, which are well suited, given the contained dimensions: a dwarf pomegranate generally it does not exceed one meter in height, or a little more.
The specimens grown in pots share the rusticity and the resistance to cold and heat with the cousins ​​placed in the ground.
They love sunny positions and do not fear the dry or cold wind.
Certainly a potted plant needs some extra care; if the soil remains dry and arid for a long time our small pomegranate will not have the possibility to widen the roots in search of water, therefore we remember to sporadically water the pomegranate in pot, especially during periods of intense and prolonged drought. For the rest the dwarf pomegranate grown in pots should be contained with annual pruning or in any case aimed at eliminating branches that have grown too much or in a disorderly manner.

Pomegranate pruning

In nurseries, especially for ornamental flowering varieties, specimens are often available bred in various forms, especially bush or sapling.
Fruit trees are allowed to grow freely for about 3 years. Later on we intervene, towards March, leaving only 5 or 6 main branches and freeing the center. The most sought after form is the inverted vase. Proceeding in this way the fruiting begins towards the fourth-fifth year, on branches at least 3 years old.
Then we proceed by maintaining the shape and eliminating the branches that go towards the center or cross with the others. Also damaged, sick or too old must be cut.
Being the pomegranate a rather rustic and vigorous tree, the pruning intervention is undoubtedly an important and delicate intervention. In fact, the pomegranate tends to grow in a rather untidy way and annual prunings are often necessary to contain the volume of this plant, restore its shape and give it back a little elegance.
The pruning intervention must begin with a general cleaning of the plant, aimed at removing the dry and shabby branches of the pomegranate. Then take a pair of pruning shears well sharpened and begin to cut, remembering also to eliminate the basal suckers and the central branches.
As always we cut with a firm and decisive hand, trying to cut the branches cleanly and to drool as little as possible. It is very important to be precise in cutting the branches because serrated cuts with torn and torn branches increase the possibilities of entry for fungi and pathogens.


Pomegranate is an undemanding shrub in terms of soil. It grows well both in drained, stony and calcareous soils, and in the more clayey ones.
It has no difficulty in developing and flowering even with a poor and dry substrate. However, if we want an abundant fruiting it is important, especially during the summer months, to keep the roots always slightly humid, especially in the Center-South.
If we live in the northern regions, with a cooler climate, it is instead advisable to monitor, especially during spring and autumn, that there is an optimal water drainage. What is most feared is in fact the cold associated with humidity, frequent causes of radical rot.

Climate and exposure

The ideal climate for this fruitful is that of the Mediterranean basin. Being characterized by a rather slow development to obtain in a short time a good sized specimen it is important to choose a warm and sheltered location for him.
Throughout the Center-South it is rare to find problems due to the winter cold, which could instead occur in the northern regions. It is in principle (in particular some cultivars) able to withstand temperatures up to -15 ° C, but maintained for a short period of time. To prevent desiccation, it is advisable to place the specimen near a south-facing wall, apply a good mulching layer to the base and possibly (when it comes to bushes with limited dimensions) cover the branches with special fabric or plastic.
However, to get a good flowering and fruiting, exposure to winter cold for a few weeks is certainly positive. A slight temperature change (up to -10 ° C) maintained for about 10 days is essential for an optimal vegetative growth in spring (and is therefore also recommended for potted plants, possibly withdrawn inside).

When to plant the pomegranate

The fruit pomegranate is mainly sold with bare root or with a small earthen bread.
The absolute best time to proceed is autumn, between mid-October to early December: in this way the plant will have time to adapt to the new location and begin to explore the substrate with the roots. We can therefore have a slight growth already from the vegetative restart.
If we live in the northern regions it is however more prudent to carry out the insertion at the end of winter, when the frosts are over. The small specimens are in fact more sensitive to frost and given the recent location they could be significantly affected.
Plants purchased in pots can be planted at any time, avoiding when the ground is frozen or the temperatures are really high, but the previous tips also apply here. We then follow very carefully as far as irrigation is concerned, especially in the months immediately following.

How to plant pomegranate?

We dig a wide and deep hole twice the earth bread. On the bottom (especially if we live in the North and / or if the soil is clayey) we prepare a thick gravel-based drainage layer of different grain size. We then add a good amount of flour or pelleted manure and some handfuls of cornunghia.
We create a root barrier with some earth and insert the specimen. The collar should be slightly uncovered. We cover with the extracted substrate (possibly lightened with purchased soil and a bit of gravel) and compact well. We cut all the branches by about 1/3 so that a quick recovery is stimulated.
We irrigate abundantly repeating often, in the absence of precipitation, until October.
If we want to create a free hedge we leave between one specimen and the other from Ѕ to 2/3 of its definitive width, depending on how much we wish it to be thick.

Maintenance and cultivation care

Pomegranate is a fairly autonomous shrub and can grow quietly without human intervention.
However, it benefits from periodic organic fertilizations. In particular, it is recommended, preferably in autumn, the distribution of abundant manure at the foot of the plant, in the area occupied by the foliage. In spring we will be able to incorporate what is left to the soil, with a light hoe, adding some granular fertilizer for fruit plants.
In the northern regions one can not only cover the base with material of collapse in order to protect the roots (especially of the young specimens) from the rigors of winter.

Multiplication of the pomegranate

Sowing is only recommended for ornamental dwarf varieties. The fruit trees have in fact an extremely slow growth. To obtain results faster, cutting, grafting or picking is usually used.
In February or November woody segments of about 25 cm in length are taken. They are inserted in a mixture of peat and sand (or perlite) leaving only the last gem to escape. The rooting takes place within two to three months. Later we will have to repot, but for the final planting in the ground we must wait at least 3 years.
Proceed with split grafting using an acid pomegranate as the subject, with roots more resistant to humidity.
Picking up the suckers
It is carried out in November or March by extracting the lateral jets from the ground, with its roots, using a spade.

Collection and storage

The pomegranates are harvested when the skin turns from pinkish to intense red, beginning to crack.
At room temperature they are kept for about 2 weeks, a month in the refrigerator.
In any case, the fruits can also be used as a decoration (for example, in combination with ornamental zucchini) because they dry without rotting.

Pomegranate variety

Punica granatum
Kind species
Simple scarlet flowers, from June to September Red-orange, as big as apples Golden foliage in autumn Up to -12 / 15 ° C
'Provence' Simple, orange-red Big and golden, red on one side Very appreciated for its fruits and resistance Up to -15 ° C
'Fina Tendral' Simple, bright orange Pale yellow, thin skin, seedless, juicy and sweet For table or juice
'Cagin' Very large fruits Much used for grenadine
'Mollar de Elche' Simple, bright orange Large, light yellow. Few seeds Very productive
'Wonderful' Simple, orange-red Big and juicy Vigorous and productive, widespread in California
Asmar red Almost black, juicy peel productive
Gabиs orange Bushy habit, not very thorny
Gafsa Big fruit, not acid Not rustic
Gordo de Jativa Medium size, very fine peel, soft seeds and little acid vigorous Not rustic

In Italy the Alappia and alappia varieties with horse teeth are also quite common, widely regarded as "ancient" fruits.
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