Native to the area of modern day Iraq and Iran, the pomegranate has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times. From there it spread to Asian areas such as the Caucasus as well as the Himalayas in Northern India. Today, it is widely cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa and tropical Africa, Indian subcontinent and the drier parts of southeast Asia. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is also cultivated in parts of California and Arizona.
The pomegranate has been mentioned in many ancient texts, notably the Book of Exodus, the Homeric Hymns and the Quran. In recent years, it has become more common in the commercial markets of North America and the Western Hemisphere.
The Punica granatum leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glossy, narrow oblong, entire, 3–7 cm long and 2 cm broad. The flowers are bright red, 3 cm in diameter, with four to five petals (often more on cultivated plants). Some fruitless varieties are grown for the flowers alone. The edible fruit is a berry and is between a lemon and a grapefruit in size, 5–12 cm in diameter with a rounded hexagonal shape, and has thick reddish skin. The exact number of seeds in a pomegranate can vary from 200 to about 1400 seeds, contrary to some beliefs that all pomegranates have exactly the same number of seeds. Each seed has a surrounding water-laden pulp—the edible aril—ranging in color from white to deep red or purple. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent pulp.
Punica granatum is grown as a fruit crop plant, and as ornamental trees and shrubs in parks and gardens. Mature specimens can develop sculptural twisted bark multi-trunks and a distinctive overall form. Pomegranates are drought-tolerant, and can be grown in dry areas with either a Mediterranean winter rainfall climate or in summer rainfall climates. In wetter areas, they can be prone to root decay from fungal diseases. They are tolerant of moderate frost, down to about −10 °C (14 °F). Insect pests of the pomegranate can include the pomegranate butterfly Virachola isocrates and the leaf-footed bug Leptoglossus zonatus. Pomegranate grows easily from seed, but is commonly propagated from 25–50 cm hardwood cuttings to avoid the genetic variation of seedlings. Air layering is also an option for propagation, but grafting fails.
Punica granatum nana is a dwarf variety of Punica granatum popularly planted as an ornamental plant in gardens and larger containers, and used as a bonsai specimen tree. It could well be a wild form with a distinct origin. The only other species in the genus Punica is the Socotran pomegranate (Punica protopunica), which is endemic to the island of Socotra. It differs in having pink (not red) flowers and smaller, less sweet fruit.
Several characteristics between pomegranate genotypes vary for identification, consumer preference, preferred use, and marketing, the most important of which are fruit size, exocarp color (ranging from yellow to purple, with pink and red most common), aril color (ranging from white to red), hardness of seed, maturity, juice content and its acidity, sweetness, and astringency.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||346 kJ (83 kcal)|
|- Sugars||13.7 g|
|- Dietary fiber||4.0 g|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.07 mg (6%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.05 mg (4%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||0.29 mg (2%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.38 mg (8%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.08 mg (6%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||38 μg (10%)|
|Vitamin C||10 mg (12%)|
|Calcium||10 mg (1%)|
|Iron||0.30 mg (2%)|
|Magnesium||12 mg (3%)|
|Phosphorus||36 mg (5%)|
|Potassium||236 mg (5%)|
|Zinc||0.35 mg (4%)|
|Percentages are relative to|
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
The name pomegranate derives from medieval Latin pōmum "apple" and grānātum "seeded". This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (e.g. Granatapfel or Grenadine in German, grenade in French, granatäpple in Swedish, pomogranà in Venetian). Mālum grānātus, using the classical Latin word for apple, gives rise to the Italian name melograno, or less commonly melagrana.
Perhaps stemming from the old French word for the fruit, pomme-grenade, the pomegranate was known in early English as "apple of Grenada"—a term which today survives only in heraldic blazons. This is a folk etymology, confusing Latin granatus with the name of the Spanish city of Granada, which derives from Arabic.
Garnet comes from Old French grenat by metathesis, from Medieval Latin granatum, here used in a different meaning: "of a dark red color". This meaning perhaps originated from pomum granatum because of the color of pomegranate pulp, or from granum in the sense of "red dye, cochineal".
While most European languages have cognate names for the fruit, stemming from Latin granatum, an exception is the Portuguese term romã which is derived from Arabic ruman, and has cognates in other Semitic languages (e.g. Hebrew rimmon) and Ancient Egyptian rmn.
Other local names include Persian anâr, Hindi/Urdu and Punjabi anar, anaar, Sanskrit darima, dadima, Bengali dalim, bedana, Tamil madulai, and Romanian rodie.
The pomegranate is native to the region of Persia (modern day Iran) and the western Himalayan range, and has been cultivated in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Russia, and the Mediterranean region for several millennia.
Carbonized exocarp of the fruit has been identified in Early Bronze Age levels of Jericho in Israel, as well as Late Bronze Age levels of Hala Sultan Tekke on Cyprus and Tiryns. A large, dry pomegranate was found in the tomb of Djehuty, the butler of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt; Mesopotamian cuneiform records mention pomegranates from the mid-Third millennium BC onwards.
It is also extensively grown in South China and in Southeast Asia, whether originally spread along the route of the Silk Road or brought by sea traders. Kandahar is famous in Afghanistan for its high quality pomegranates.
Although not native to Korea or Japan, the pomegranate is widely grown there and many cultivars have been developed. It is widely used for bonsai because of its flowers and for the unusual twisted bark that older specimens can attain. The term "balaustine" (Latin: balaustinus) is also used for a pomegranate-red color.
Pomegranate cultivation in Italy is diffused throughout the southern region, especially in Olevano sul Tusciano and the rest of Campania's area. The ancient city of Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period. Spanish colonists later introduced the fruit to the Caribbean and Latin America, but in the English colonies it was less at home: "Don't use the pomegranate inhospitably, a stranger that has come so far to pay his respects to thee," the English Quaker Peter Collinson wrote to the botanizing John Bartram in Philadelphia, 1762. "Plant it against the side of thy house, nail it close to the wall. In this manner it thrives wonderfully with us, and flowers beautifully, and bears fruit this hot year. I have twenty-four on one tree... Doctor Fothergill says, of all trees this is most salutiferous to mankind." The pomegranate had been introduced as an exotic to England the previous century, by John Tradescant the elder, but the disappointment that it did not set fruit there led to its repeated introduction to the American colonies, even New England. It succeeded in the South: Bartram received a barrel of pomegranates and oranges from a correspondent in Charleston, South Carolina, 1764. John Bartram partook of "delitious" pomegranates with Noble Jones at Wormsloe Plantation, near Savannah, Georgia, in September 1765. Thomas Jefferson planted pomegranates at Monticello in 1771: he had them from George Wythe of Williamsburg.
After the pomegranate is opened by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water because the arils sink and the inedible pulp floats. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. Another very effective way of quickly harvesting the arils is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove.
The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. The taste differs depending on the subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness. The pomegranate juice can be very sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate in taste, with sour notes from the acidic tannins contained in the aril juice. Pomegranate juice has long been a popular drink in Persian and Indian cuisine, and began to be widely distributed in the United States and Canada in 2002.
Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice and is used in cocktail mixing. Before tomatoes (a New World fruit) arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Iranian foods, and is still found in traditional recipes such as fesenjān, a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, usually spooned over duck or other poultry and rice, and in ash-e anar (pomegranate soup).
Wild pomegranate seeds are used as a spice known as anardana (from Persian: anar + dana, pomegranate + seed), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, but also as a substitute for pomegranate syrup in Persian cuisine. Dried whole arils can often be obtained in ethnic Indian subcontinent markets. These seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry preparation. Ground anardana is also used, which results in a deeper flavoring in dishes and prevents the seeds from getting stuck in teeth. Seeds of the wild pomegranate variety known as daru from the Himalayas are regarded as quality sources for this spice.
Dried pomegranate arils, found in some natural specialty food markets, still contain the seed and residual aril water, maintaining a natural sweet and tart flavor. Dried arils can be used in several culinary applications, such as trail mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream. Chocolate covered arils may be added to desserts and baked items.
In the Caucasus, pomegranate is used mainly as juice. In Azerbaijan, a sauce from pomegranate juice (narsharab) is usually served with fish or tika kabab. In Turkey, pomegranate sauce (Turkish: nar ekşisi) is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and sometimes as garnish for desserts such as güllaç. Pomegranate syrup or molasses is used in muhammara, a roasted red pepper, walnut, and garlic spread popular in Syria and Turkey.
In Greece, pomegranate (Greek: ρόδι, rodi) is used in many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, legume salad with wheat and pomegranate, traditional Middle Eastern lamb kebabs with pomegranate glaze, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur, and as a popular fruit confectionery used as ice cream topping, mixed with yogurt, or spread as jam on toast. In Cyprus and Greece, and among the Greek Orthodox Diaspora, ρόδι is used to make koliva, a mixture of wheat, pomegranate seeds, sugar, almonds and other seeds served at memorial services.
In Mexico, they are commonly used to adorn the traditional dish chiles en nogada, representing the red of the Mexican flag in the dish which evokes the green (poblano pepper), white (nogada sauce) and red (pomegranate arils) tricolor.
In Ayurvedic medicine
The rind of the fruit and the bark of the pomegranate tree is used as a traditional remedy against diarrhea, dysentery and intestinal parasites. The seeds and juice are considered a tonic for the heart and throat, and classified as a bitter-astringent (pitta or fire) component under the Ayurvedic system, and considered a healthful counterbalance to a diet high in sweet-fatty (kapha or earth) components. The astringent qualities of the flower juice, rind and tree bark are considered valuable for a variety of purposes, such as stopping nose bleeds and gum bleeds, toning skin, (after blending with mustard oil) firming-up sagging breasts and treating hemorrhoids. Pomegranate juice (of specific fruit strains) is also used as eyedrops as it is believed to slow the development of cataracts.
Ayurveda differentiates between pomegranate varieties and employs them for different remedies.
Pomegranate has been used as a contraceptive and abortifacient by means of consuming the seeds, or rind, as well as by using the rind as a vaginal suppository. This practice is recorded in ancient Indian literature, in Medieval sources, and in modern folk medicine.
Nutrients and phytochemicals
Pomegranate aril juice provides about 16% of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement per 100 ml serving, and is a good source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), potassium and natural phenols, such as ellagitannins and flavonoids. Pomegranates are listed as high-fiber in some charts of nutritional value. That fiber, however, is entirely contained in the edible seeds which also supply unsaturated oils. People who choose to discard the seeds forfeit nutritional benefits conveyed by the seed fiber, oils and micronutrients.
The most abundant polyphenols in pomegranate juice are the hydrolyzable tannins called ellagitannins formed when ellagic acid binds with a carbohydrate. Pomegranate ellagitannins, also called punicalagins, are tannins with free-radical scavenging properties in laboratory experiments and with potential human effects. Punicalagins are absorbed into the human body and may have dietary value as antioxidants, but conclusive proof of efficacy in humans has not been shown. During intestinal metabolism by bacteria, ellagitannins and punicalagins are converted to urolithins, which have unknown biological activity in vivo. The different punicalagins present in P. granatum are granatin A and B, punicacortein A, B, C and D, 5-O-galloylpunicacortein D, punicafolin, punigluconin, punicalagin, 1-alpha-O-galloylpunicalagin, punicalin and 2-O-galloyl-punicalin. Other phenolics include catechins, gallocatechins, and anthocyanins, such as prodelphinidins, delphinidin, cyanidin, and pelargonidin.
Many food and dietary supplement makers use pomegranate phenolic extracts as ingredients in their products instead of the juice. One of these extracts is ellagic acid, which may become bioavailable only after parent molecule punicalagins are metabolized. However, ingested ellagic acid from pomegranate juice does not accumulate in the blood in significant quantities and is rapidly excreted. Accordingly, ellagic acid from pomegranate juice does not appear to be biologically important in vivo.
Potential health benefits
In preliminary laboratory research and clinical trials, juice of the pomegranate may be effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation. In mice, "oxidation of LDL by peritoneal macrophages was reduced by up to 90% after pomegranate juice consumption...".
In a limited study of hypertensive patients, consumption of pomegranate juice for two weeks was shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotensin-converting enzyme. Juice consumption may also inhibit viral infections while pomegranate extracts have antibacterial effects against dental plaque.
Despite limited research data, manufacturers and marketers of pomegranate juice have liberally used evolving research results for product promotion, especially for putative antioxidant health benefits. In February 2010, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to one such manufacturer, POM Wonderful, for using published literature to make illegal claims of unproven antioxidant and anti-disease benefits.
Clinical trial rationale and activity
Metabolites of pomegranate juice ellagitannins localize specifically in the prostate gland, colon, and intestinal tissues of mice, leading to clinical studies of pomegranate juice or fruit extracts for efficacy against several diseases.
Ancient Egyptians regarded the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity and ambition. According to the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical writings from around 1500 BC, Egyptians used the pomegranate for treatment of tapeworm and other infections.
Although the pomegranate was mentioned in the Ancient Greek history prior to the founding of Ancient Rome, the Greeks were familiar with the fruit far before it was introduced to Ancient Rome via Carthage. In the Ancient Greek mythology, the pomegranate was also known as the "fruit of the dead".
The wild pomegranate did not occur in the Aegean area in Neolithic times. It originated in eastern Iran and came to the Aegean world along the same cultural pathways that brought the goddess whom the Anatolians worshipped as Cybele and the Mesopotamians as Ishtar.
The myth of Persephone, the goddess of the Underworld, also prominently features the pomegranate. In one version of Greek mythology, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken off to live in the underworld as his wife. Her mother, Demeter (goddess of the Harvest), went into mourning for her lost daughter and thus all green things ceased to grow. Zeus, the highest ranking of the Greek gods, could not allow the Earth to die, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone. It was the rule of the Fates that anyone who consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Persephone had no food, but Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner and so, because of this, she was condemned to spend six months in the Underworld every year. During these six months, when Persephone is sitting on the throne of the Underworld next to her husband Hades, her mother Demeter mourns and no longer gives fertility to the earth. This became an ancient Greek explanation for the seasons. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting Persephona depicts Persephone holding the fatal fruit. It should be noted that the number of seeds that Persephone ate varies, depending on which version of the story is told. The number of seeds she is said to have eaten ranges from three to seven, which accounts for just one barren season if it is just three or four seeds, or two barren seasons (half the year) if she ate six or seven seeds.
The pomegranate also evoked the presence of the Aegean Triple Goddess who evolved into the Olympian Hera, who is sometimes represented offering the pomegranate, as in the Polykleitos' cult image of the Argive Heraion (see below). According to Carl A. P. Ruck and Danny Staples, the chambered pomegranate is also a surrogate for the poppy's narcotic capsule, with its comparable shape and chambered interior. On a Mycenaean seal illustrated in Joseph Campbell's Occidental Mythology 1964, figure 19, the seated Goddess of the double-headed axe (the labrys) offers three poppy pods in her right hand and supports her breast with her left. She embodies both aspects of the dual goddess, life-giving and death-dealing at once. The Titan Orion was represented as "marrying" Side, a name that in Boeotia means "pomegranate", thus consecrating the primal hunter to the Goddess. Other Greek dialects call the pomegranate rhoa; its possible connection with the name of the earth goddess Rhea, inexplicable in Greek, proved suggestive for the mythographer Karl Kerenyi, who suggested that the consonance might ultimately derive from a deeper, pre-Indo-European language layer.
In the 6th century BC, Polycleitus took ivory and gold to sculpt the seated Argive Hera in her temple. She held a scepter in one hand and offered a pomegranate, like a 'royal orb', in the other. "About the pomegranate I must say nothing," whispered the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century, "for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery." In the Orion story Hera cast pomegranate-Side (an ancient city in Antalya) into dim Erebus — "for daring to rival Hera's beauty", which forms the probable point of connection with the older Osiris/Isis story. Since the ancient Egyptians identified the Orion constellation in the sky as Sah the "soul of Osiris", the identification of this section of the myth seems relatively complete.[original research?] Hera wears, not a wreath nor a tiara nor a diadem, but clearly the calyx of the pomegranate that has become her serrated crown. The pomegranate has a calyx shaped like a crown. In Jewish tradition it has been seen as the original "design" for the proper crown. In some artistic depictions, the pomegranate is found in the hand of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Within the sanctuary of Hera at Foce del Sele, Magna Graecia, is a chapel devoted to the Madonna del Granato, "Our Lady of the Pomegranate", "who by virtue of her epithet and the attribute of a pomegranate must be the Christian successor of the ancient Greek goddess Hera", observes the excavator of the Heraion of Samos, Helmut Kyrieleis.
In modern times the pomegranate still holds strong symbolic meanings for the Greeks. On important days in the Greek Orthodox calendar, such as the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and on Christmas Day, it is traditional to have at the dinner table "polysporia", also known by their ancient name "panspermia," in some regions of Greece. In ancient times they were offered to Demeter and to the other gods for fertile land, for the spirits of the dead and in honor of compassionate Dionysus. When one buys a new home, it is conventional for a house guest to bring as a first gift a pomegranate, which is placed under/near the ikonostasi (home altar) of the house, as a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck. Pomegranates are also prominent at Greek weddings and funerals. When Greeks commemorate their dead, they make kollyva as offerings, which consist of boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and decorated with pomegranate. It is also traditional in Greece to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings and on New Years. Pomegranate decorations for the home are very common in Greece and sold in most home goods stores.
Pomegranates were known in Ancient Israel as the fruits which the scouts brought to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of the "promised land". The Book of Exodus describes the me'il ("robe of the ephod") worn by the Hebrew High Priest as having pomegranates embroidered on the hem. According to the Books of Kings the capitals of the two pillars (Jachin and Boaz) that stood in front of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem were engraved with pomegranates. It is said that Solomon designed his coronet based on the pomegranate's "crown" (calyx).
It is traditional to consume pomegranates on Rosh Hashana because the pomegranate, with its numerous seeds, symbolizes fruitfulness. Also, it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. This particular tradition is referred to in the opening pages of Ursula Dubosarsky's novel Theodora's Gift.
The pomegranate appeared on the ancient coins of Judea. When not in use, the handles of Torah scrolls are sometimes covered with decorative silver globes similar in shape to "pomegranates" (rimmonim) Some Jewish scholars believe that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Pomegranates are one of the Seven Species (Hebrew: שבעת המינים, Shiv'at Ha-Minim) of fruits and grains enumerated in the Hebrew Bible (Deuteronomy 8:8) as being special products of the Land of Israel. The pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible many times, including this quote from the Songs of Solomon, "Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks." (Song of Solomon 4:3). Pomegranates also symbolize the mystical experience in the Jewish mystical tradition, or kabbalah, with the typical reference being to entering the "garden of pomegranates" or pardes rimonim; this is also the title of a book by the 16th-century mystic Moses ben Jacob Cordovero.
In the earliest incontrovertible appearance of Christ in a mosaic, a fourth-century floor mosaic from Hinton St Mary, Dorset, now in the British Museum, the bust of Christ and the chi rho are flanked by pomegranates. Pomegranates continue to be a motif often found in Christian religious decoration. They are often woven into the fabric of vestments and liturgical hangings or wrought in metalwork. Pomegranates figure in many religious paintings by the likes of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, often in the hands of the Virgin Mary or the infant Jesus. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of the fullness of Jesus' suffering and resurrection.
According to the Qur'an, pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise (55:68). The Qur'an also mentions pomegranates three times (6:99, 6:141, 55:68) as examples of good things God creates.
The pomegranate is the symbol of Armenia and represents fertility, abundance and marriage. One ancient custom widely accepted in ancient Armenia was performed at weddings. A bride was given a pomegranate fruit, which she threw against a wall, breaking it into pieces. Scattered pomegranate seeds ensured the bride future children. In Artsakh it was accepted to put fruits next to the bridal couple during the first night of marriage. The pomegranate was among those fruits, and was said to also ensure happiness. It is believed the couple enjoyed a pomegranate wine as well.The symbol of the pomegranate is connected with insemination. It protected a woman from infertility and protected a man's virile strength. Currently, pomegranate juice is famous with Armenians in food and heritage.
The pomegranate gained a new symbolism after Armenian Genocide that left millions of Armenians spread all over the world; Armenians use the pomegranate and its many seeds to symbolize the Armenian people and their resilience. The pomegranate is also seen as the fruit of life for Armenians because during the genocide the only food they had came from fruits on trees. It is said that there are approximately 365 seeds in each pomegranate and the Armenians survived by eating one seed each day during their exile.
Annually in October, a cultural festival is held in Goychay, Azerbaijan known as Pomegranate Festival. The festival features Azerbaijani fruit-cuisine mainly the pomegranates from Goychay. At the festival, a parade is held with traditional Azerbaijani dances and Azerbaijani music.
Iran and ancient Persia
Pomegranate was the symbol of fertility in ancient Persian culture. In Persian mythology, Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and becomes invincible. In the Greco-Persian Wars, Herodotus mentions golden pomegranates adorning the spears of warriors in the phalanx. Even in today's Iran, pomegranate may imply love and fertility.
Iran produces pomegranates as a common crop. Its juice and paste have a role in some Iranian cuisines, e.g. chicken, ghormas and refreshment bars. Pomegranate skins may be used to stain wool and silk in the carpet industry.
Pomegranate Festival is an annual cultural and artistic festival held during October in Tehran to exhibit and sell pomegranates, food products and handicrafts.
In Hinduism, the pomegranate (Sanskrit: Beejpur, literally: replete with seeds) symbolizes prosperity and fertility, and is associated with both Bhoomidevi (the earth goddess) and Lord Ganesha (who is also called Bijapuraphalasakta, or the one fond of the many-seeded fruit). The Tamil name maadulampazham is a metaphor for a woman's mind. It is derived from, maadhu=woman, ullam=mind, which means as the seeds are hidden, it is not easy to decipher a woman's mind.
Introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), the pomegranate (Chinese: 石榴; pinyin: shíliu) in olden times was considered an emblem of fertility and numerous progeny. This symbolism is a pun on the Chinese character 子 (zǐ) which, as well as meaning seed also means offspring thus a fruit containing so many seeds is a sign of fecundity. Pictures of the ripe fruit with the seeds bursting forth were often hung in homes to bestow fertility and bless the dwelling with numerous offspring, an important facet of traditional Chinese culture.
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