Pomegranates (Punica granatum; family: Lythraceae) are believed to have originated in Iran or Afghanistan but have been cultivated since ancient times in the Mediterranean.

The pomegranate is a small, deciduous tree which grows to a height of 5 metres with about the same spread. Pomegranates flower from spring to summer. The orange-sized fruit grows on mature spurs and ripens in late autumn some 5-7 months after flowering. The pomegranate is deciduous however it may remain evergreen if grown in the tropics. They are hardy trees which need long hot summers for fruits to mature whilst also being able to tolerate temperatures down to minus 12°C.  Like olives, they are drought-tolerant. New trees from cuttings will take about 3 years to bear fruit.

How to Grow

Pomegranates tolerate most soils provided they are well-drained. They prefer a position in full sun. Areas with a Mediterranean type climate i.e. hot dry summers and cool winters are ideal for growing pomegranates. Pomegranates also grow in cool and tropical climates but the fruit quality may be poorer. Despite their drought-tolerance, deep watering once a week is recommended during the dry season for optimum fruit production. Apply 5 kg of general fertiliser per plant once a year when mature.

Pomegranates are best planted when dormant. They should be spaced about 5 to 6 metres apart. Train each plant to a single trunk. Prune to shape by selecting four or five main branches to build the framework of the tree. Remove suckers regularly and encourage spurs. Remove dead or tangled branches in winter. Propagate by hardwood cuttings.

Problems

Pomegranates are frost-sensitive at bud swell. Fungal rot can infect fruit. Fruit fly may also be a problem. Various fungal diseases such as Botrytis cinnerea and Alternarea sp. can cause fruits to split before it has ripened.  Provision of sufficient water when fruit is maturing will help to reduce fruit splitting.

Harvesting

Fruits may be removed when they are starting to show some colour. They can be picked before they have reached full ripeness because they will continue to ripen post-harvest. Fruits which are left on the tree for too long will have a greater chance of splitting. Fruits should be removed by cutting the stem with secateurs since the stems are strong and you risk damaging the fruit and plant if you try to pluck them.

Uses

Pomegranate may be eaten as fresh fruit or made into juice. The fruit has a sweet-sour, tangy taste. They hold well in cool storage, but fruit bruises easily so don't stack them on top of each other.

Recipe: Grenadine (Pomegranate Cordial)

  •     Mix one cup each of pomegranate juice and sugar, and allow the mixture to stand for 24 hours.
  •     Heat the mixture and let it simmer until the sugar is dissolved, and the consistency of syrup is obtained.
  •     Transfer into sterilised jars, seal and refrigerate.
  •     For a refreshing drink, mix the grenadine at 1 part to 5 parts chilled water.