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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pomegranate: Fruit for a Dark Season

Winter, if judged by temperature, came to Oregon about two weeks early this year. In the garden, everything stopped. The jays, generally willing to share the peanuts I set out for them, have become increasingly belligerent. The warning pangs of arthritis sing me awake in the morning. There is a saving grace, however, and I don't mean the upcoming holidays. This is the only time of year I can buy pomegranates.

I love the taste. I even love the difficulty of getting to the fruit, mining the seeds like garnets. (It should be difficult to reach the payload. After all, mythology warns us that a mere six pomegranate seeds sentenced Persephone to her annual six months in Hell.) But there is much more. I love the rounded weight in my hand, the tough red rind (which yields more than double the antioxidants of the fruit), and the hat-like peak of the flower end. Inside, the seed arrangements are so complex that any angle you slice reveals a different pattern, from star to Rorschach.

I am obsessed, but so have many others been. The pomegranate appears both in Homer's works and the book of Exodus. As one of the seven species of fruit that blessed the land of Israel, it is a symbol of abundance and new beginnings, and the motif  brightens Judaic art.

Pomegranates embroidered on a tallit

Pomegranates flank an inscription from the Song of Solomon
Look anywhere in the art of the Middle East, the Mediterranean or countries that benefited from their trade routes, and you with find evidence of the pomegranate's importance in civilization's shared consciousness.

  Madonna of the Pomegranate by  Botticelli, 1487

Persian "Pomegranate Orchard" carpet

Coronation of Henry VIII  and Catherine of Aragon  under the Tudor rose and a pomegranate

And who could be surprised that Salvador Dali produced his 1944 work, One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate?

I can imagine Dali at his easel, the juice of a pomegranate dripping from the tips of his grand moustache, his mind joined with the ancient fruit and all its odd associations. Fertility, danger, beauty beneath a harsh surface.The opulent weds the impossible.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, my engineer husband indulges one Brazilian superstition: we must  have pomegranates in the house.We each take six seeds, bite the fruit pulp from them, and place the tissue-wrapped seeds in our wallets to ensure prosperity in the year to come. It's  everyday magic--and the mythic promise that the months of cold, damp Hell will give way to spring. In the meantime I'll eat pomegranates.

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  1. Dear Ms. Chase,

    Thank you so much for sending us the link to your blog! We certainly appreciate your love of pomegranates, and we hope you are enjoying this season to the fullest. We send good cheer and the wish that carrying pomegranate seeds in your wallet next year will bring you and your engineer husband abundant prosperity!

    Please visit us online for POM Wonderful seasonal recipes and for current coupon offers that can be redeemed on all POM products

    Healthy Wishes,
    P♥M Wonderful
    Consumer Affairs

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