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POMEGRANATE - The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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									             ON          THE                 POMEGRANATE
                                       BY HILDEGARD SCHNEIDER
                                       Head Gardener at The Cloisters

Each year at Christmas time The Cloisters is             sour and sweet kinds, another is said to be seed-
decorated with plants grown in its own garden.           less, and there is one improved form which is
To these the pomegranate, a fruit popular in             supposed to have fruit the size of a human
the Middle Ages and common in the symbolism,             head. The double-flowering types are non-
both pagan and Chris-                                                                  fruiting and are grown
tian, of mediaeval and                                                                 solely for ornament.
earlier times, adds a                                                                  Yellow and white and
particularly    festive                                                     ,,U'   a Nstriped -flower speci-
touch, with its bright                                                                 mens are listed, but
red against evergreen                                                                  they are rarer. Both
branches. The Madon-                                                                   fruiting and non-fruit-
na by Vittorio Crivelli                                                                ing varieties are very
illustrated here, which                                                                decorative. All grow
can be seen during the                                                                 best in warm climates,
                                                                                       as the fruit requires a
holidays in the special
Christmas exhibition at                                                                long ripening season.
The Cloisters, shows the                                                               In this country, they
                                                                                       are fairly common in
pomegranate used, as it
so often is, for decora-                                                               the South. Excellent
tive effect as well as                                                                 fruit is grown around
symbolic meaning.                                                                      Augusta, Georgia, but
   The pomegranate                                                                      they are not hardy
seems to have been in                 ,                                                 farther north than
                                                r
existence ever since the                                   cr 6
                                                            IS             2     t      Maryland.
earth was created. Some               "       1              t*
                                                             -L& -f                   jPlants     are successfully
scholars of antiquity as-         ifi       _                                           grown in pots at The
sume that the pome-                                                                     Cloisters, but they stay
                                                              !
                                                            3 1il                       small when cultivated
granate was the tree of                                                      :- _r_
life in the Garden of                                                    t           : in this manner. They
Eden, and according to                                                                  thrive best in rather
a number of legends it            I                                                     heavy loam. Late in the
was the fruit of this tree                                                              fall they lose their
                                rj
rather than the apple                                                                   leaves and have to be
 withwhich Eve tempted                                          - -
                                                                ,           1stored              in a cool place
Adam. The two fruits                                       I
                                                           I3                            indoors. Early in the
                                                -
                                                                    !X i;      -
                                                                                   X
 are alike, at least on the   ... '-                                 - '-
                                                                   - ;-,:-: ?'           season, around the mid-
 outside.                                                                                dle of February, they
                                                                                         start sprouting again.
    Although the pome-
 granate is of such an-                                                                     The double-flowering
 cient origin and culti-         Madonna and ChilId by Vittorio Crivelli. species are favorite
                                                       ,
 vation, there are only a        Gift   of George Bluinnenthal, I94r. A split            hedge plants in the
 few varieties. There are      K
                                 tomegranate is in t he upper left corner. South of this country
                                   .    L




                                                       117




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and also in Italy. In northern Mexico the pome-        duced into England through his first wife,
granate was introduced by the Jesuit mission-          Catherine of Aragon, who had it for her em-
aries. It now grows there to perfection and in         blem. In one of the festivals held in honor of
great abundance. A fiery liquor, aquardiente,          their marriage, a bank of roses and pomegran-
is made from the fruit.                                ates was planted to symbolize the union of
    The pomegranate, or.Punica granatum, is a          England and Spain. The pomegranate is men-
small tree that can grow to a height of about          tioned occasionally by Shakespeare. A line in
twenty feet. It is usually more of a bush, very        Romeo and Juliet reads "The nightingale sings
closely branched and twiggy, but it can be             on yon pomegranate tree." John Gerard, a
trimmed into the shape of a tree. The branches         physician and famous amateur herbalist of
are slender and frail and somewhat spiny. The          sixteenth-century England, had pomegranates
leaves are small, lanceolate, light green, and         in his garden.
thin. New shoots appear reddish bronze. The               The Hebrew word for pomegranate is rim-
flowers are bell-shaped, borne on the new              mon, and many references containing it are
growth of the previous year's wood. They are           found in the Old Testament. They are usually
very showy bright orange-red in color with a           associated with the fruitfulness of the land,
thick crownlike calix having five to seven             along with grapes, figs, olives, barley, and wheat.
points and ruffled scarlet petals. The fruit           Those were the riches Moses pledged to his
ripens late in September and is round, or some-        people when he led them out of Egypt into the
 times a little flattened, red and greenish yellow     promised land. To this day the Jews employ
outside with the calix persisting. It is said that     pomegranates in certain religious ceremonies.
 the crowns worn by kings were inspired by the             Already in those very early days, the flowers
 design of this calix. The part of the fruit that      and fruit of the pomegranate served as designs
 is eaten is the seeds, which are surrounded by        in architecture, weaving, and needlework. The
 a deep red, juicy flesh; they are set close to-       hem of the sacred robe of Aaron, older brother
 gether like the cells of a honeycomb and are           of Moses and first High Priest of Israel, was
 embedded in a white or pinkish leathery pulp.          embroidered with blue, purple, and scarlet
    Punica granatum is native throughout most           pomegranates alternating with golden bells
 of the Orient and the Mediterranean regions,           which were probably patterned after the shape
 but because of its long history it is pretty diffi-    of the flowers. Robes with similar adornment
 cult to establish its real first home. It is the       are said to have been worn by ancient Persian
 sole genus in the family Punicaceae and has            kings. Carved representations of the fruit
 only two species. The botanical name Punica            along with lilies were sculptured on the capi-
 is derived from the Latin punicus, meaning             tals of King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.
 scarlet or red but also referring to the so-called     They also appear frequently in old Assyrian
  Punic Wars. The Romans called it the Punic            and Egyptian monuments and on Pompeian
  apple because it came from Carthage. Other            wall paintings.
  early names were Malum punicum (apple of                 Many legends are associated with the pome-
  Carthage) and Lybian or Carthaginian apple.           granate. One is the well-known Greek myth
  Pomegranate is from the Latin pomum, mean-            of Persephone, who could not return from the
  ing fruit. The specific name granatum was giv-         Underworld because she had eaten the seeds of
  en because of the many hard seeds.                     the pomegranate. But a compromise was made
     Having been brought from Carthage by                -Pluto, the god of Hades, kept her only half
  Roman soldiers, it was later introduced into           the year. Beginning each spring, he released
  southern Europe and Spain. A small branch              her to spend the other half with her grieving
  with an open pomegranate is on the coat of             mother. Thus mortal men were granted the
  arms of Granada, and the province actually             beauty of springtime and the pomegranate be-
  took its name from the fruit. During the time          came a symbol of rebirth and the awakening
  of Henry VIII the pomegranate was intro-               of nature.

                                                   118
Detail of a pomegranate tree in fruit, bud, and flower, in the lo
                                                            lowerhe left corner of the third
                      tapestry in the Unicorn series at The Cloisters

  Most legends associate the pomegranate with    indicate how many children she will have. Chi-
fertility. In Turkey, after the marriage cere-   nese women offer pomegranates to the Goddess
mony, a fruit is thrown on the ground by the     of Mercy when they pray for children. Good
bride and the number of seeds that fall out      fortune and riches come to persons dreaming


                                             119
of pomegranates. In the case of married peo-        to produce the best results. In India the rind
ple, this also means children. To a young man       is often combined with opium for chronic
in love, it implies that his sweetheart is de-      dysentery and diarrhea.
voted and loyal to him.                                The flowers were called "balaustia." When
   In Christian art the pomegranate, often split    dried, it is said they kept their strength for two
and showing the seeds, was interpreted as a         years. Mediaeval herbalists considered them
symbol of fertility, hope of immortality, and       good for many things, biliousness, vomiting of
the Resurrection. The infant Jesus is frequent-     gall, and other stomach disturbances. The rind
ly seen in paintings and sculpture presenting       of the fruit and some of the flowers were
the pomegranate to his mother. In the last of       chopped up and soaked in vinegar, and a
the famous Unicorn tapestries at The Clois-         sponge saturated in this solution was placed
ters the symbolic meaning of marriage and fer-      on the stomach or chest. This was a sure cure.
tility is illustrated by showing the Unicorn        Chewing dried flowers would stop bleeding
chained to the pomegranate tree, with the red       of the gums and strengthen "wagging" teeth.
seeds of a bursting fruit spilling on him.          Dioscorides recommends the juice of sour pome-
   It was not only for its symbolic significance    granates, pressed out and mixed with honey,
that the pomegranate was regarded so highly in      as being good for ulcers in the mouth and
the early days and all through the Middle           pains in the ears and nostrils. Whoever could
Ages; it was also much esteemed for its many        swallow three flowers or more would not be
uses. Aside from the seeds' serving as food, all    bothered with eye trouble all year.
parts of the plant, which is highly astringent,         Theophrastus and Pliny consider the pome-
could be used for some purpose and were for-        granate a valuable plant both for beauty and
merly much employed in medicine. They are            for its medicinal properties. Pliny lists twenty-
now rarely used.                                     six remedies made from it. Theophrastus, be-
   Tannin is especially abundant in the rind of      sides describing the virtues of the pomegran-
 the fruit and still more in the root bark. From     ate, goes into great detail on its culture. He
 the rind a jet black ink was and still is made      says that a branch with fruit on it set into a
which according to Parkinson is durable to           squill (Urginia maritima) will store and keep
 the end of the world. Pliny mentions a dye          longer. Cuttings will also strike root quicker if
made from the flowers to color cloth a puni-         set into a squill bulb.
 ceous shade. The bark is still used in tanning         A spiced wine was made by the ancients from
 and dyeing Morocco leather. All medicines           the juicy seeds of the pomegranate. Even to-
 made from the pomegranate had to be taken           day a very refreshing drink called grenadine
 with caution. Even slight overdoses would           is made from the seeds with the addition of
 cause nausea and vomiting. Given moderately         water and sugar. This is supposed to be very
 in the form of powder, or preferably, in a de-      cooling and especially good in cases of fever.
 coction, they were powerful. For generations        The seeds eaten fresh have a soothing quality.
 the bark of the stem, the roots, and, to some       In Syria they are eaten sprinkled with rose
 extent, the skin of the fruit were used to make     water and sugar, and they are said to be good
 a well-known vermifuge, particularly effective      flavored with rum or eaten dried as con-
 for tapeworm. The fresh bark was considered         fectionery.




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